Scientist George Muller says the whaling compromise is not based on conservation.

Recent discussions have focused on seeking a diplomatic solution to whaling, as though a cosy face-saving "win-win" scenario would somehow leave all sides happy.

Unfortunately, science does not merge well with politics. Compromises seldom work for safeguarding endangered species.

Commercial whaling violates numerous international conservation treaties, including the Antarctic Treaty, CCAMLR and CITES. Just as we need to prohibit trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts, we also need to prohibit trade in whalemeat.

Allowing one exception sabotages the whole process and opens the door to future exploitation of any and all endangered species.

Trade-offs and concessions allowing commercial whaling will only create and fuel demand for whalemeat.

Attaching a dollar value and providing a ready market for the sale of endangered species has been shown to create more demand and its inevitable associations: poaching and black-marketeering, as we see with elephant ivory and pirate whalers.

People are always willing to pay money for endangered wildlife. Human history is littered with acts of selfishness and greed. The list of human-caused extinctions is impressive, even within recent history.

Whalers have yet to prove sustainably harvesting whales is possible.

Despite over 20 years of presenting pseudo-science and calling for a return to commercial whaling it has been rejected by the IWC.

Even if strict rules were introduced, there is no guarantee they would work. Fisheries management is an extremely inexact science, as is demonstrated by the fact that over 80 per cent of fisheries worldwide are already overfished.

It is too easy to set an overly-generous quota and deplete the stock - particularly when that "fishery" targets long-lived, slow-growing and slow-reproducing mammals, not fish.

The term "sustainable whaling" is a paper theory, not a proven concept.

The proposed management techniques are based on inadequate knowledge of populations and basic biology. And any real-world monitoring in distant whaling grounds would be difficult and expensive, inevitably relying on trusting the fox to manage the henhouse.

Sadly, "fisheries management" invariably becomes a conflict between short-term profit at the expense of long-term conservation.

Fisheries worldwide have been characterised by serial depletion of stocks and species, and whaling was no exception.

It is also true the rarer something gets the more money it is worth. Japan illustrates this concept quite aptly as they pursue the last of the southern bluefin tuna to extinction.

Cynical observers have recognised the pattern already; Japan is reluctant to accept controls on any "fishery" in case that sets a precedent.

The trouble is their fishing interests - and associated environmental effects - commonly involve territorial waters other than their own.

The problem for enforcement is it is too easy to bend or ignore the rules at sea where no one can see what you are up to.

Whalers have demonstrated they couldn't be trusted to manage commercial whaling that was anywhere near sustainable.

Japanese whalers' cynical manipulation of the "scientific whaling" loophole clearly demonstrates their contempt for the rules, and their targeting of pregnant females and endangered species shows their interest in conservation is non-existent.

Trusting them to undertake future commercial whaling according to arbitrary rules and quotas would be an enormous gamble. If we reopen the door to commercial whaling it will be extremely difficult to shut.

A commonly bandied defence of whaling is it constitutes Japanese "culture". This deliberately ignores the fact large-scale consumption of whalemeat in Japan began only after World War II, and it was never a tradition to send a factory fleet to the other side of the world.

An often repeated argument is that Hindus revere cows but don't tell us not to eat them. This is deliberately obfuscating. The cows consumed in New Zealand are in no danger of becoming extinct and are killed humanely in approved slaughterhouses.

They are not Indian cows, nor killed anywhere near Indian territory.

Whaling fails on all counts. These are migratory species Japan has no claim to kill, cultural or otherwise. The argument about whaling is not about the West telling Japanese what they shouldn't eat.

The point often lost among the rhetoric is simple biology - killing endangered wildlife is a recipe for over exploitation and extinction.

If some Japanese people want to eat whales there are still thousands of tonnes of unsold meat stored in Japanese warehouses.

"Culture" is not an excuse for knowingly committing wrong. A truly great culture is one that allows itself to mature and change, rather than steadfastly clinging to the bad old way of doing things.

Japan is clearly in this for the long haul. It is obvious all their negotiations and back-door deals at the IWC is directed towards nothing less than a full-scale return to commercial whaling.

Unfortunately, regardless of the outcome of these discussions, New Zealand has demonstrated a weakening in resolve that will only strengthen whalers' determination to stay their course.

* C. George Muller is a New Zealand marine biologist and author of Echoes in the Blue; an award-winning factual "eco-thriller" about whaling.