South Korea Stirs Up IWC Meeting with Scientific Whaling Proposal

The last two days of Google Alerts for ‘Whales’ have seen almost 100% of the postings dedicated to the news that the government of South Korea has proposed starting a scientific whaling hunt, much like Japan has been doing since the late 1980s. All major outlets, including Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Reuters, have picked up on this story. It has met with rapid and vociferous opposition.

The argument used by the proponents of this plan is that their fishermen are complaining that there are too many whales eating too many fish.  This pseudo-scientific thought holds no water, because there were plenty of fish and whales and they all lived in fine ecological balance until humans started harvesting both. We’ve stopped overharvesting whales, but haven’t stopped catching too many fish.

The other issue with this concept is that any whales caught for scientific purposes can’t simply be discarded once the research is finished. Article VIII, Paragraph 2, of the International Whaling Commission Scientific Permit Whaling states: Any whales taken under these special permits shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government by which the permit was granted. Typically, this processing means selling the animals as steaks, etc in stores and restaurants.  In other words, South Korea could get into the business of selling whale meat if this proposal is accepted.

The IWC meetings in Panama City will conclude today. The U.S. government has stated its opposition to the proposal, as have Australia, New Zealand and Panama. The Scientific Committee will decide if the proposal merits acceptance. Anonymous sources in South Korea have stated that the country will withdraw its plan if it is rejected by the committee.

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