International Whaling Commission chairman to miss 'absolutely critical' annual meeting
AMSTERDAM — The chairman of the International Whaling Commission has fallen ill and will not attend its annual meeting, where his proposal to control the annual whale hunt was scheduled to be discussed, a spokeswoman said Monday.
The absence of Christian Maquieira could complicate efforts to negotiate a deal to end the stalemate between pro- and anti-whaling countries that has continued since a moratorium on commercial whaling was adopted 25 years ago.
Maquieira circulated a proposal in April to allow limited commercial hunting for 10 years. He has said it would halve the roughly 2,000 whales killed annually by Japan, Norway and Iceland, which exploit loopholes in the whaling ban.
Spokeswoman Jemma Jones said the commission has informed the 88 member states that Maquieira would miss the meeting starting next week in Agadir, Morocco. It will be chaired instead by his deputy, Anthony Liverpool, who co-authored the proposal.
No details of the Chilean's illness were released.
"This is the most contentious issue to come up in two decades, and the man who's leading it isn't going to be there," said Adrian Hiel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Maquieira was elected last year for a three-year term. The Morocco meeting was to be the first under his gavel.
Maquieira's proposal was intended to restore the commission's authority over whaling. The proposal calls for expanded monitoring of the annual hunt and a limit on whaling to the three countries and small indigenous groups.
It also would allow hunting in the declared Indian Ocean and Antarctic sanctuary, but create a new whale sanctuary in the south Atlantic -- a trade-off that environmentalists dismiss as meaningless because few whales are caught now in the south Atlantic.
"This is an absolutely critical meeting for the IWC, with an opportunity to break the political deadlock," said Wendy Elliot of WWF International. But opening the southern oceans would be "management madness," she said in a statement Monday.
-- Arthur Max, Associated Press
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Photo: A minke whale, one of the most commonly hunted species, surfaces in the waters off Sydney, Australia, on June 8. Credit: Greg Wood / AFP/Getty Images