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Bowhead whales – Balaena mysticetus
Bitter arguments between pro- and anti-whaling lobbies at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have left some observers fearing that the organisation will fall apart, raising the spectre of unregulated commercial whaling.

At the meeting, Japan lobbied to overturn a moratorium on commercial whaling on the grounds that some whales, such as the minke, are abundant enough to support an end to the ban.

As expected, Japan's attempt was rejected. But the big surprise was the voting down of a US-Russian request for a five-year extension to an agreement that allows aboriginal communities in Alaska and Russia to take a yearly quota of 280 endangered bowhead whales.

Reference: Nature 417, 476 (2002)

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Photo credit: NOAA
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