WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United States is leading an effort that could result in an agreement in coming weeks to limit and ultimately end whale hunting by Japan, Norway and Iceland, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Citing people involved with the negotiations, the newspaper said the compromise deal — which has sparked controversy within the 88-nation International Whaling Commission — would allow the three countries to keep hunting whales for the next 10 years in reduced numbers.
In exchange, the whaling nations would agree to stricter monitoring of their operations, including tracking devices and international monitors on all whaling ships and participation in a whale DNA registry to track global trade in whale products.
The newspaper said officials involved in the talks were hopeful they could reach agreement in coming weeks, although ratification by the overall group is uncertain.
"This is one of the toughest negotiations I've been involved in 38 years," The Times quoted Cristian Maquieira, the Chilean chairman of the commission, as saying. "If this initiative fails now, it means going back to years of acrimony."
Last month, diplomats involved in the talks said during a meeting in Florida that they were in the middle of a "diplomatic crisis" over differences in the commission regarding whaling.
Japan, Norway and Iceland are the only countries that now hunt whales.
Australia, New Zealand and other countries want to ban all whaling. The compromise of reduced hunting for 10 more years is a hard one to get the commission members to agree on.
Anti-whaling activists have called for a ban on all whaling within a short amount of time and have urged an end to the hunting of threatened whale species.
The commission's annual meeting is scheduled for June in Morocco.
The Times said representatives to the whaling commission from more than a dozen countries including the three whaling countries and others backing a compromise deal are in Washington this week to negotiate terms of the agreement.
(Writing by Deborah Charles; Editing by Peter Cooney)