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Japan uses humpback permit in talks

SEATTLE, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Japan appears to be using Australian humpbacks as a bargaining chip in negotiations, International Whaling Commission officials say.

The country's permit for the summer whaling season in Antarctic waters includes 50 humpbacks from the population breeding in Australian waters, The Age reports. But Japan has said it will not take those whales as long as IWC talks are making progress, Executive Secretary Nicky Grandy said.

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The IWC meeting in Seattle ended Monday. Cristian Maquieira said the group is trying to reach a compromise between whaling nations and other members based on "managing the whaling that is happening in our oceans."

A spokesman for Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett called Japan's continued talk about the humpback quota "disappointing and unnecessarily provocative."

''It's equivalent to keeping a knife in the hand when both parties have agreed to put down weapons and resolve things,'' said Reece Turner of Greenpeace.

Japan has a permit this year for its "scientific" whaling for 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. The fleet is expected to reach Antarctic waters in about a week.

The Ady Gil, one of the vessels operated by the group Sea Shepherd, which follows the whaling fleet, left Hobart, Tasmania, Monday.

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