South Korea has appealed to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to allow scientific whaling in the area for research purposes. South Korea is attempting to use a loophole from the 1986 commerical whaling ban to gain whaling rights. The announcement has caused quite a stir from non-whaling nations and environmental groups that believe the plan may be a cover for commercial whaling.
According to Seoul’s Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the loophole that would allow South Korea to resume whale hunting would be done for research purposes. Specifically to study the types and amounts of fish whales eat because there has been an increase of complaints from fisherman claiming that whales have been consuming large amounts of fish stocks.
Three countries have exceptions that allow whale hunting – Japan, Iceland and Norway. A few other exceptions apply to the commercial whale ban including an exception that allows indigenous groups to whale hunt under international rules.
Environmental groups think that this is a “back-door effort” to allow commercial whaling in the country especially because South Korean officials said that “they haven’t determined what to do with the whale meat following the studies.” Japan claims to use whale hunting for research purposes yet the meat from hunted whales shows up all over the country in restaurants and stores.
Australia and New Zealand – two non-whaling countries – are supporting each other in condemning South Korea’s plan. Both countries have stated that they would raise diplomatic protest to prevent the whaling plan.
Murray McCully, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said in a statement that South Korea’s plan would be a “serious setback” to international conservation efforts. “The portrayal of this initiative as a ‘scientific’ programme will have no more credibility than the so-called scientific programme conducted by Japan, which has long been recognized as commercial whaling in drag,” said McCully.
He added, “In this day and age there is simply no need to kill whales in order to conduct effective research.”
Australian officials have not commented on South Korea’s plan for scientific whaling despite an outcry from groups that have called on the government to put diplomatic pressure on Seoul. Australia’s Treasurer Wayne Swan said, “This government is absolutely opposed to commercial whaling. And we are absolutely opposed to any arrangement that might seek to disguise commercial whaling as scientific whaling.”
Swan refused to comment more on the issues surrounding South Korea stating, “We don’t know enough about the reports that have emerged overnight to say any more than that.”
South Korea will issue future whaling plans to a scientific committee of the global body. And according to Stuff, “South Korean delegates… were not looking for approval by other nations.” It’s pretty doubtful that the country would get it anyway.