Conservationists have urged Korea to announce that it will abandon its plans for whaling. Korea is oneof the countries attending the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, currently taking place in Jeju, Korea. It would be an ideal venue.
Korea announced plans earlier this summer at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to take Japan’s lead and use a loophole that allows for scientific research whaling and would allow it to target an unspecified number of endangered J-stock minke whales in the Sea of Japan under Article VIII of the Convention.
After receiving global backlash from anti-whaling nations and animal advocacy groups following its announcement, Korean officials backed off the decision, but they haven’t formally rejected the plans.
“There is a certain irony that at the same time Korea is hosting this vital international conservation congress, it could be planning to train its harpoons on an endangered whale population,” said Patrick Ramage, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Global Whale Program. “We urge Korea to state publicly and categorically that it is abandoning its ill-thought out whaling plans.”
Korea doesn’t currently allow for either commercial or scientific whaling, but does allow the sale of whales that are accidentally caught in fishing nets. According to the IUCN, the reported number of whales that die in fishing nets every year is 80-100, but genetic sampling has led Scientific Committee to believe that the actual bycatch number is double, or around 150-200 annually.
The IUCN doesn’t believe that current catch levels are sustainable or that any significant information would be gained from killing more whales. They issued a statement urging Korea to “reconsider the plans to resume scientific whaling, and instead to continue to support non-lethal whale research in Korean waters.”
In 2011, there were 21 known cases of illegal whaling and some believe it never really stopped.
“In 2009, Korea and Japan accounted for over 80% of the [global] large whale by-catch,” Jeonghee Han Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner for East Asia told the BBC. “That’s why we suspect that it’s not purely by-catch; these two countries eat whales.”
According to IFAW, an adult minke whale is worth $100,000 (USD). The group “believes that so-called scientific whaling is merely commercial whaling by another name, producing sham science which is not taken seriously by the reputable scientific community.” Others, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, agree.
“We believe this move is a thinly veiled attempt by Korea to conduct commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research, similar to hunts conducted by Japan in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary,” Wendy Elliott, head of WWF’s delegation to the whaling commission told CNN.
Korea has until December to submit its proposal for scientific whaling to the IWC.
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