Protestors hold up a placards as they demonstrate during the 66th International Whaling Commission meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia. Photo: AFP/Jure Makovec

An international whaling meeting on Tuesday voted down a fresh bid by southern hemisphere nations to create an Atlantic sanctuary for the marine mammals.

Opposed by whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland, the move required 75% of votes to pass, but received only 38 “yes” ballots out of 64, at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Portoroz, Slovenia.

“The motion fails,” said Simon Brockington of the IWC secretariat, after tallying the votes.

The 15-year-old proposal was put forward by Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay — countries which have whale-watching industries.

It seeks the creation of a 20-million-square kilometer sanctuary for whales.

Many cetacean species were hunted to near extinction in the 20th century for their meat, oil and blubber.

The bid, first put forward in 2001, has failed at previous IWC meetings.

Defenders of the proposal say about 71% of an estimated three million whales killed around the world between 1900 and 1999, were taken in southern hemisphere waters.

The most targeted species were fin, sperm, blue, humpback, sei and minke whales, they say — and many populations are still recovering under a 30-year old moratorium on all but aboriginal whale hunting.

According to a proposal submitted to the commission, the sanctuary would “promote the biodiversity, conservation and non-lethal utilization of whale resources in the South Atlantic Ocean”.