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China to Continue Protecting Whales

China is urging international community to well protect whales at this year's annual meeting held in Ulsan, the Republic of Korea, from May 27 to June 24.

"China is a non-whaling country. It has banned any whaling activities, including commercial whaling for years," said Meng Xianlin, an official with the Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office under the Ministry of Forestry.

"We actually appeal the international community to strengthen the protection over whales, to ensure a sustainable development of this world marine delicacy," he said.

At the meeting, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will vote on several resolutions including whether Japan could expand its whaling quota.

According to IWC regulations, three quarters of the vote is needed to raise the quota.

"I hope China could participate in anti-whaling camp during this year's voting," said Zhang Li, the China country director of the International Foundation of Animal Welfare (IFAW).

China's voting delegation will come from the Ministry of Agriculture's Bureau of Fishery, the director of which refused to comment on China's decision.

IWC now has 61 member countries including China, which banned commercial whaling in 1986. Commission regulations allow limited hunting in Japan and other countries in the name of scientific research.

Sources with IFAW show that three countries, Japan, Iceland and Norway, have found ways around the worldwide whaling moratorium and have killed more than 20,000 whales. Roughly 1,400 more will die by the end of this year.

However, Yoshimasa Hayashi, a member of Japan's House of Councilors, said at a previous occasion in May that at least half of the commission's members were expected to back Japan to double its annual quota and expand the number of species permitted for hunting.

His remark has triggered criticisms from many countries, such as Australia, Britain, the United States and New Zealand.

Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said last month that he would seek a permanent ban on commercial whaling and an end to Japan's whaling for scientific purposes at Ulsan meeting.

Japan argues that whale hunting is part of its culture and the thriving whale population has been eating sizable fish stocks.

"Whales do not belong to any country, it is the whole world's oceanic resource, so no country could decide solely to capture the mammal," Zhang Li said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2005)

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