With 38 votes in favor and 21 against, the bid failed to reach the three-quarters needed for passage.
Japan said that since there is already a global moratorium on commercial whaling, adding a sanctuary would be like “building a roof on top of a roof.”
Each year, Japan kills hundreds of whales in Antarctic waters that are already declared a sanctuary under a loophole that allows them to hunt for “research.”
Norway and Iceland ignore the commercial whaling moratorium, but whale meat is increasingly being left unsold at markets, especially in Japan.
Conservationists say Japan has stacked the commission with countries not involved in the industry, and has bribed them to vote its way.
South Korea surprised some at the convention by announcing its intention to launch research whaling at an unspecified time in the future.