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LONDON, England (February 7, 2001 – New Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---An informal seminar hosted by New Zealand and Australia in Monaco yesterday to hear opposing views on the establishment of a South Pacific whale sanctuary has raised new issues, but done little to change minds, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Rules of the seminar did not allow stances taken at the hearing to be made public, Jim McLay, New Zealand commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, told reporters.

The New Zealand Herald said Japan Fisheries spokesman Joji Morishita said that New Zealand and Australia had again failed to gain support for a South Pacific sanctuary. The countries' joint bid at last year's commission meeting in Australia for the sanctuary had been rejected by the commission because, under the international convention on the regulation of whaling, the proposal was not scientifically based.

The idea, favored by Australia, New Zealand and the United States, fell short of the required 75 per cent at the 40-nation commission meeting last year.

The sanctuary would stretch 12 million square kilometers (4,800,000 miles) across the South Pacific, over a region inhabited by more than six whale species.

If it gained approval, about half the world's oceans would be off-limits to whaling, though commission bans are not binding and apply only to member nations.

However, the New Zealand Herald quoted Mr. McLay as saying that the seminar was not intended to decide anything, only to provide a forum for discussion. That did not mean little was achieved.

"Those of us who are promoting the idea of a sanctuary firmly believe that, as a result of this, there is a better understanding of why it is necessary, and why it is supported by the island countries," he said.

"We also have a better understanding of some of the ideas that are to be advanced against the proposal. It was very useful from our point of view."

Opponents did mount "one or two" arguments that Mr. McLay had not heard before, but these would not alter sanctuary proposals. Instead, the commission had the opportunity to rebut the new arguments against the sanctuary, either yesterday, or at its annual meeting in London in July.

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