Jul 10 2012
South Korea’s proposal to resume ‘scientific’ whaling totally unacceptable
The news that South Korea is proposing to hunt whales under regulations permitting scientific research whaling has come as a shock to the world environmental movement. This proposal echoes the bogus programmes of South Korea’s neighbour, Japan.
The proposed hunting would take place near the Korean coast and be carried out on Minke Whales. The South Koreans are not revealing how many would be caught. The South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) said the research was needed “for the proper assessment of whale stocks”.
However, many governments at the IWC meeting condemned the Korean announcement. There are several different stocks, or groups, of Minke Whales in the region, and one of the them, the so-called J-stock, is severely depleted.
It is believed that scientific whaling on this stock borders on the reckless. In retaliation Joon-Suk Kang, the head of the South Korean delegation, said the programme was necessary to answer questions about Minke Whale stocks. He said the proposal was not finalised, and that whaling would not begin until plans had been discussed by an international group of expert scientists convened by the IWC.
The Koreans’ eventual stated aim is to prepare the ground for a resumption of “coastal whaling” – a rather vague concept that Japan is also pursuing, and that would see whale hunting return as a normal activity.
The region around the port of Ulsan, in the south-east of South Korea, has a whale-eating tradition that appears to date back thousands of years, judging by prehistoric cave art.
Fishermen in the region already catch whales in fishing nets. Officially, this happens accidentally, but local environment groups say the Minkes are deliberately caught, and that the meat is easily bought in markets and restaurants.
Some Minke whale stocks around South Korea are already severely depleted and anti-whaling governments and conservation groups argue that Japan’s programmes in the North Pacific and Antarctic are an abuse of process, as the regulation was originally designed to allow for the taking of a few whales here and there, and not hundreds per year.
They argue that the real purpose is to provide a supply of whale meat, albeit to a dwindling customer base.
As far as I can see scientific whaling is an obsolete and sad consequence of a document drafted 60 years ago and used to justify a practice which should be outlawed.
There’s no reason to do new scientific research given the enormous body of scientific literature which exists already.
Sadly South Korea was one of the first countries to take the scientific whaling route after the global moratorium on commercial hunting came into place in 1986, but the programme was in operation for just a single season. South Korea came under intense diplomatic pressure to stop. I hope that this is now likely to start again and that they will feel a similarly pressure.