LONDON (Reuters) — The body that regulates international whaling must reassert its power over the industry or risk losing control altogether, its secretary said on Monday.

Japan and Norway still kill hundreds of whales a year some 14 years after the International Whaling Commission banned the practice, and it is time to bring them back under international control, IWC secretary Ray Gambell said.

Speaking ahead of the IWC's annual meeting in Adelaide, Australia, in July, Gambell said the 40-member body must bring an end to a decade of inactivity.

"Commercial whaling was stopped in 1986, and we've been arguing over what to do next since then," Gambell told Reuters.

"The point has been reached when the IWC must be seen to be taking action rather than just talking about it. . . . It's time to get our act together."

Japan caught more than 500 minke whales last year for what it calls scientific purposes, and Norway plans to kill 655 minkes this year under a complaint it lodged against the moratorium.

"Whaling is going on in Norway and Japan under the control of these two governments. But it should be the IWC's job to get it under international control," Gambell said.

"If the commission isn't going to do it, what is its function?"

Environmental group Greenpeace said the Adelaide conference should focus on ending Japanese and Norwegian whaling rather than discussing ending or amending the moratorium.

"To allow whaling now would be folly," said Richard Page, Greenpeace's whaling campaigner in London.

"They should look at closing Japan's scientific loophole... bogus science is allowing a purely commercial activity to go ahead," Page said.

He said the IWC should concentrate on whale preservation rather than trying to fulfil its original mandate of maintaining sustainable whale stocks for consumer nations, set out in 1946 when the body was established.

"It's totally wrong for the IWC to act like a fishery commission, because whales don't fit the fish life cycle."

"They are very slow to recover from exploitation, and have maybe one calf every other year ... they're just not suitable animals for commercial exploitation."

The IWC's Gambell said the commission's roles as a kind of fisheries regulator and a conservation body were "slightly conflicting," but said protection measures were high on the Adelaide agenda.

He said a joint Australian and New Zealand plan to protect a large area of the South Pacific from whaling would be discussed at the meeting, a move welcomed by Greenpeace's Page.

But Page said it faced stiff resistance from the Japanese.

"Every year Japan comes under international attack for its whaling activities and every year they ignore it," Page said.

"They're totally out of step with world opinion."