AFTER three years of preparation and discussion, the International Whaling Commission of 88 member states has failed to reach any agreement on changes to its existing regimes at its two-day conference held in Agadir, Morooco.

Since 1986 Japan, Norway and Iceland have found ways of dodging the Commission's rules against commercial whaling to kill about 1'400 whales a year. They proposed a new system authorising commercial whaling for ten years but under strict limits and quotas that could be reduced over that period.

The United States and some non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace and the Pew Environmental Group supported this proposal in the belief that it would bring order to all whaling activities. Britain, Australia and several Latin American countries opposed the new proposal because it did not insist on an eventual ending to all whaling and reluctantly preferred the retention of the exisitng arrangement despite its shortcomings.

The chairman of the Commission said that “fundamental positions remain very much apart”. Japan, the principal beneficiary of the existing regime said that it had made considerable concessions to get an agreement but “anti-whaling countries refused to accept the killing of a single whale”.

There have been suggestions that the Commission should be disbanded but any replacement would face exactly the same problem - that Japan, Norway and Iceland will find ways of whaling whether it is legal or not.