The International Whaling Commission gathered in Santiago, Chile on Monday for their week long meeting to discuss the future of commercial whaling. Some member countries are strongly opposed to whale hunting (Australia is a leader in this camp). Other nations, such as Japan, strongly support commercial whaling.
In 1986, the commission imposed a worldwide moratorium on all commercial whaling. One loophole was included: A 'small' number of whales could be killed for research purposes. Japan has used this loophole liberally, sponsoring government research groups that kill over 1000 whales a year, and then sell the meat commercially for a profit.
Many other countries, such as Iceland, Norway, Russia, Canada and some Caribbean nations have objected to the ban and thus ignore it entirely. On the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, the whale hunt is a celebrated yearly event in which everyone participates. Pilot whales are herded into the harbor and then slaughtered en masse. The killing is so great that the harbor water literally turns red.
Japan remains technically compliant with the ban because the United States has threatened trading sanctions with Japan if they resume full-scale whaling. However, Japan threatens to leave the IWC if the moratorium is not lifted this year.
In 2006 the IWC nearly voted to remove the moratorium entirely, and some fear that this could in fact happen in 2008.