March 5, 2009 / 3:49 AM / 9 years ago

Japan may cut back on future whale hunts: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering reducing the number of whales it catches each year, the Asahi newspaper reported on Thursday, as an international body fights to bridge a divide between nations for and against whaling.

Japan, which carries out what it calls research whaling despite an international ban on commercial hunting, currently aims to catch about 900 of the creatures a year Antarctic waters.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets on March 9 in Rome and is set to discuss a compromise proposal put forward last month.

An IWC panel suggested allowing Japanese coastal whaling in return for limiting or ending the Antarctic program, but the proposal has come under fire from conservation organization WWF, which says it is biased toward Japan.

Japan’s fisheries minister said last month that while he could not accept a proposal to end research whaling, the government would give a detailed response to the idea.

Japan could cut its annual catch by several hundred whales and is considering submitting such a plan to the IWC meeting after seeing the moves of anti-whaling nations, the Asahi reported.

A Japanese fisheries ministry official declined to comment on the report.

Commercial whaling was banned under a 1986 international treaty, with which Japan has officially complied.

Japan says it operates a scientific whaling program that is not aimed at exploiting whales for their meat, but it has been criticized by anti-whaling nations such as Australia and by some environmental groups.

Whale meat can be found in some supermarkets and restaurants in Japan.

Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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