Japan mulls next steps after whaling defeat in Brazil

"Japan was expecting something positive happens at this meeting," said Joji Morishita, who chaired the meeting of the deeply divided 89-member body and now reverts to being Japan's commissioner (AFP Photo/Jure MAKOVEC) (AFP/File)

Florianopolis (Brazil) (AFP) - The International Whaling Commission's rejection Friday of Japan's proposal to resume commercial whaling "is not the end of the story," Tokyo's whaling commissioner said at the end of a divisive meeting in Brazil.

"Japan was expecting something positive happens at this meeting," said Joji Morishita, who chaired the meeting of the deeply divided 89-member body and now reverts to being Japan's commissioner.

"But that's not the end of the story. That's the beginning of the story of the next steps," Morishita told AFP.

Anti-whaling nations led by Australia, the European Union and the United States, defeated Japan's "Way Forward" proposal -- to return to whaling for profit -- in a 41 to 27 vote.

The vote was followed by threats of a withdrawal by Japan and left the 72-year old organization at a crossroads.

Morishita said that despite a "very strong sense of dialogue," the differences between pro- and anti-whaling nations were "very clear"

"I don't like to look at this as being failure or success, or the end. This is always the beginning of something new, and that's very important for the parties involved."

Morishita had told the close of the meeting that member countries should ask themselves what kind of an organization they wanted it to be.

It "needs to address conservation issues, climate change, pollution and all that stuff....and there are needs for management too," he told AFP.

"So how do you address this? Through the IWC or through a different organization or a combination of different organizations?"

"I think that's what we would now like to look at," he said, "not just concentrating whether IWC can survive or continue, or fail doing a job. To look at the larger world."

Pro-whaling states say the IWC's mandate is both to conserve and manage -- meaning to sustainably hunt -- recovering whale stocks, but that the emphasis within the organization has leant too far towards conservation, leaving them without a voice.

The large Japanese delegation here would "assess the result of this meeting very carefully back in Japan," said Morishita.

While Japan would maintain its commitment to international cooperation "as a whole" he said, "but how they like to do this from here is something they will discuss back home."

Asked if that would involve Japan inviting like-minded states to join them in a new pro-whaling organization, Morishita said: "I simply don't know. I have no basis to answer this question."

And asked if the world had seen the last of Japan at the biennial IWC meetings, he said: "I have no comment to make on that."