More than 5000 whales will be saved from slaughter over the next 10 years in a compromise being negotiated by the International Whaling Commission, reports the New York Times.
New Zealand former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is heading the negotiations by the 88-country commmission in Washington this week.
The newspaper says the terms of the negotiations remain subject to major changes, but officials have indicated it would roughly halve the catch over 10 years and save more than 5000 whales compared to the status quo.
Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales despite a whaling moratorium put in place since 1986.
Driven by Japanese whaling under the banner of scientific research, the
number of whales killed each year has risen from 300 in 1990 to an expected
3000 this year.
However, whale meat from these scientific hunts has been shown by DNA testing to have been served in restaurants not just in Japan but also in the United States and South Korea.
The compromise deal would allowing whaling again - but require stricter controls and reduce the total catch allowed.
It has been criticised as a pro-whaling deal by Greenpeace because it reverses one of the anti-whaling movement's greatest victories, the 1986 moratorium.
It is not clear what will happen after the 10-year deal expires, though officials said it would allow time for whaling stocks to recover while a new deal was negotiated.
Australia has also indicated it would prefer to fight whaling by taking Japan to the International Court of Justice.
In Japan, internet users have become defensive, saying anti-whaling protests are
hypocritical and racist (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10638339).
Its whaling fleet returned from a three-month expedition in the Southern Ocean on Monday, but its catch was halved due to disruptions by protesters.
- NZ HERALD STAFFBy Michael Dickison Email Michael