TOKYO (AFP) — Experts on both sides of the bitter feud on whaling wrapped up two days of talks here Thursday aimed at finding common ground on the future of the deadlocked International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Nearly 100 scientists, environmentalists, politicians and UN officials exchanged ideas at a whaling symposium arranged by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental US research institute.
One-third of the participants were from Japan, which is in the midst of its annual whaling expedition in the Antarctic Ocean -- a trip strongly opposed by most Western nations, led by Australia.
"If both sides gain from moving to common ground, and it's worth the pain involved in doing so, then a resolution is possible," said one expert at the forum, where speakers were not identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The expert said however that at present, both the pro- and anti-whaling camps "have too much to lose and too little to gain to make meaningful compromise possible."
"If participants on both sides of the whaling debate would recognise this, then some of the tension and mistrust which have characterised the meetings of the IWC in recent years would disappear," he said.
Participants were drawing up recommendations to be submitted to a future IWC meeting.
Japan, which argues that whaling is part of its culture, kills some 1,000 whales a year using a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium that allows "lethal research" on the giant mammals.
Its expeditions are routinely harassed by anti-whaling activists.
Japan says it wants to "normalise" the IWC to its original mission of managing whaling and has called for secret balloting at the body.
Environmentalists accuse Japan of using its aid to bring allies onto the IWC, mostly developing nations with no history of whaling.
Norway and Iceland are the only nations that defy the global whaling moratorium outright.
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