PORTOROZ, Slovenia (AFP) - Aboriginal Greenlanders will be allowed to kill more than 200 whales each year from 2015 to 2018 under a subsistence quota granted on Monday by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), disappointed conservationists said.
The activists said they were dismayed by the decision, as they feared some of the meat will be sold rather than used for traditional subsistence.
The quota was an agenda-topping issue at the 88-member commission's 65th meeting in the coastal Slovenian town of Portoroz. At the IWC's last gathering, in 2012, Denmark's bid for a higher quota for former colony Greenland was rejected after a bust-up with the rest of the European Union.
Monday's agreement was passed with 46 votes to 11 with three abstentions, the sources said. Under it, Greenland's hunters will be able to kill 207 whales annually: 176 minke, 19 fin, 10 humpback and two bowhead whales. The quota request was for four years, from 2015 to 2018.
The bid was approved by the EU this time round, which helped push it to the three-quarters vote majority required. The no voters were mainly Latin American countries.
"There have been concerns about the increasingly commercialised nature of the Greenland hunts, with whale meat being sold in supermarkets and to tourists," said the Humane Society International, which is observing the conference. "It was sad to see so many whale-friendly nations, including the EU bloc, support a higher quota for Greenland's killing of minke, bowhead, fin and humpback whales."
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said it was "disappointed" at the quota's approval "without closer scrutiny of (Greenland's) claim to need almost 800 metric tonnes of whale meat a year for subsistence.
"Recent academic studies show that Greenland's Inuit population consumes closer to 500 tonnes of whale products a year, part of which is already supplied by unregulated hunts of thousands of dolphins," said the AWI's Sue Fisher. "We are concerned that the new IWC quota will give Greenland more whale meat than its native people need for nutritional subsistence and that the surplus will continue to be sold commercially, including to tourists."
Observers had predicted the quota was likely to be approved, with the EU and United States keen to bring Greenland, an autonomous, Danish-dependent territory, back under official IWC control.
In 2013, despite having no quota, Greenland hunters slayed 198 whales - nine fin, eight humpback and 181 minke whales.
The aboriginal, whale-eating communities in North America, Russia, Greenland and the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines receive whaling quotas from the IWC under a subsistence exclusion to a 1986 moratorium on whaling.