Japan accused of bombing whale-watching boats

MUSCAT, Oman (AP) — Environmental groups accused Japan on Monday of bombing whale-watching vessels, creating an uproar at an international conference on whaling.
Statements issued by two organizations attending the conference also said Japan is trying to buy support for its campaign to force the International Whaling Commission to lift a 12-year ban on commercial whaling.
The groups did not elaborate on the accusations that Japan attacked the whale-watching ships, which are used by environmental groups to monitor the animals. Japanese delegates at the conference did not immediately respond.
The statements were issued by the Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness and the International Wildlife Coalition, and signed by 41 other groups.
Other delegates at the conference protested and demanded the two groups be ousted from the meeting.
The five-day conference, which started Saturday, is debating a proposal by Ireland to allow commercial whaling in coastal waters up to 200 miles offshore, but banning it elsewhere.
Ireland does not seek to hunt whales itself, but fears the 39-nation organization could collapse because of discord over commercial whaling.
The commission banned commercial whaling worldwide in 1986, but allowed traditional hunters to continue killing whales for subsistence.
More than 1,200 whales are expected to be killed in 1998, and more than 18,000 whales have been killed since the IWC moratorium took effect, the World Wildlife Federation said.
It said other threats to whales include drowning in fishing nets, collision with ships, noise pollution and harassment by tour boats.