A bid to take whale protection to the UN General Assembly failed at the International Whaling Commission subsequent to criticism from hunting nations. The options include setting quotas unilaterally without the IWC's explicit approval, or even withdrawing from the body. Either would be extremely controversial. Japan has had such programmes in place since 1986, together with an annual hunt in the Southern Ocean, which has been stated a whale sanctuary.
According to Patrick Ramage, director of the global whale programme with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Clearly the whaling countries want to contain any discussion of their whaling inside the IWC. The bid became more controversial after environment groups reported finding whale meat on sale in many supermarkets and restaurants, and, with the EU next to the growth, the bid failed. The conclusion to hold meeting every two years from now on is part of an ongoing procedure largely driven by the UK and Australia aimed at making the commission more functional and capable.