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New plan would allow whale hunts, with limits

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A few countries have never obeyed the whale-hunting ban.A ban on commercial whale hunting since 1986 hasn't stopped Japan, Iceland and Norway from killing 35,000 whales, according to U.S. government counts. Now the International Whaling Commission has proposed a new approach — legalize whaling for those three nations for the next 10 years, but impose limits and watch the whalers more carefully.

The plan doesn't propose to phase out commercial whaling, even though whales in many areas have not rebounded in numbers and face other threats. Environmental groups say it's far too weak and could open the way to more commercial whaling fleets launching from Russia and other countries.

The whaling moratorium brought a sharp drop in the number of whales hunted and killed when it went into effect. In recent years, however, the three whaling nations have been killing whales in increasing numbers. Last year, the three countries that hunt for whales despite the ban — Japan, Iceland and Norway — killed about 1,700 whales, including minke, fin, sei, gray and Bryde's whales.

"What we recommend, our precautionary approach, is to set the numbers (for commercial hunts) at zero until scientists can prove otherwise, and they're doing it backwards," said Susan Millward of the Animal Welfare Institute.

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