South Korea to resume "research whaling"

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2012:

South Korea to resume “research whaling” 

PANAMA CITY, Panama–South Korean whaling commissioner Joon-Suk Kang told the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission meeting on July 5, 2012 in Panama that South Korea will submit a plan to begin “research whaling” to the IWC

scientific committee in 2013. The “research whaling” would target

minke whales in coastal waters. Joon-Suk Kang said South Korean whalers had been told that they would be allowed to resume whaling after the coastal whale population recovered. Relying on non-lethal studies, Joon-Suk Kang contended “has delayed the proper assessment of the resources.”

The proposed South Korean resumption of whaling would resemble the Japanese “research whaling” program. Both South Korea and Japan responded to the 1986 IWC declaration of a global moratorium on commercial whaling by starting “research whaling” programs, but the South Korean program was suspended later in 1986, while the Japanese program has been repeatedly expanded.

Norway and Iceland have also broken the IWC moratorium to kill minke whales within coastal waters.

“South Korea’s plans come with the Japanese program under assault on the seas from anti-whaling activists, and in the International Court of Justice by Australia,” pointed out Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald. But, Darby pointed out, “Should South Korea take to coastal whaling, there is little prospect of direct action. Unlike in Antarctic waters, unfettered by normal coastal policing,” where the Japanese whaling fleet kills whales and has been confronted each winter since 2005 by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, “South Korea has a coast guard with a tough 50-ship contingent.”

But the declaration of intent to resume whaling brought an anti-whaling demonstration in Seoul within hours.

“We’re concerned about South Korea’s announcement that it will begin a lethal scientific research whaling program,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell told Washington D.C. media, “and we plan to discuss this with the South Korean government.”

Said Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, “I am very disappointed. There is no excuse for scientific whaling. I have instructed our ambassador in Korea to raise this matter at the highest levels of the Korean government.”

South Korea developed a commercial whaling industry under Japanese occupation, 1910-1945, based at Ulsan, where a whaling museum opened in 2006, near several restaurants that serve whale meat. At peak the South Korean whaling industry killed about 1,000 whales per year, close to the self-assigned but unfilled Japanese “research whaling” quotas of recent years. Throughout the post-1986 commercial whaling moratorium, South Korean fishers who catch whales “accidentally” have been allowed to sell their meat. About 80 whales per year have reportedly been killed “accidentally,” their carcasses selling for as much as $120,000 apiece.

On July 3, 2012 the IWC rejected a proposal by Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Uruguay, under consideration since 1998, to set the entire South Atlantic Ocean aside as a whale sanctuary.

The proposal received support from the majority of the ballots cast,

38 to 21, with two abstentions, but did not receive the support of a majority of the 89 IWC member nations, many of which are small island nations whose membership has been sponsored by Japan or who joined the IWC coincidental with the receipt of Japanese economic aid. “Japan doesn’t want to give an inch on anything that may compromise their ability to roam the world doing whaling as they see fit,” said Jose Truda Palazzo of the Brazilian-based Cetacean Conservation Center.

But Gabon, a West African nation previously aligned with Japan, voted for the proposed sanctuary, a week after Gabonese President Ali Bongo signaled a break with “sustainable use” politics by burning the stockpiled ivory from about 850 elephants. Seized from poachers and traffickers, the ivory was believed to be worth about $10 million.

The IWC voted 34-25 against a request from Denmark for a quota of 1,300 whales to be killed by indigenous Greenlanders, but authorized new indigenous whaling quotas for Alaska, the Russian far northeast, and the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Native Alaskans will be allowed to kill up to 336 bowhead whales during the next five years, Russian Inuits and other indigenous peoples will be allowed to kill up to 744 gray whales, and residents of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be allowed to kill up to 24 humpback whales, despite lacking any evident tradition of whaling prior to European colonization in the 19th century.

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