New Zealand is involved in considering a deal that, if approved, will allow Japan to hunt more whales in the North Pacific in return for reducing its scientific whaling programme in the Southern Ocean.
The proposal is being worked on by the International Whaling Commission's drafting committee.
New Zealand is a member of the committee along with Australia, Japan, the United States, Sweden and Brazil.
Sydney Morning Herald reporter, Andrew Darby, who obtained leaked papers from the committee, said it is worrying that the proposal is being worked on behind closed doors.
He said the proposal indicates that anti-whaling nations are making concessions to Japan.
A spokesperson for Japanese whalers hopes the deal will lead to a return to commercial whaling.
Institute of Cetacean Research spokesperson Glenn Inwood said the commission has been close to collapse for years and is moving towards a more compromising position in order to survive.
Mr Inwood said the proposal should be seen as the lesser of two evils.
International Fund for Animal Welfare whaling spokesperson Patrick Ramage said the proposal is the result of an unprecedented series of closed-door meetings.
He said the plan would export scientific whaling to the North Pacific, not end it.