Saturday 14 July 2012

South Korea's Whaling Plans still unclear

In his opening address to the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama last week Dr. Joon-Suk Kang, head of the Republic of Korea’s delegation, announced that his country is “currently considering conducting whaling for scientific research”.

South Korea has undertaken a minke whale sighting program off the Korean Peninsula for the past decade. Included in South Korea’s justification for escalating to lethal research is the “whales-eat-our-fish” excuse used by whaling nations such as Iceland and Norway. Dr. Kang’s address included the remark that “an increasing number of minke whales are eating away large amount of fish stocks which should be consumed by human being(s).” As always, this argument disregards the fact that whales and fish are part of a natural ecosystem that was in perfect balance for tens of thousands of years and that any current imbalance has been due to increasing numbers of humans and their unsustainable use of the ocean.

The kinds of scientific information that South Korea claims it needs, including differentiating minke whale populations and identifying their “feeding habits”, can be determined more easily and efficiently using non-lethal research techniques such as best practice sighting programs, satellite tagging and genetic sampling analysis.

Straight after South Korea’s announcement during day three of the IWC meeting, the Australian Government delegation raised its objections, as did a number of other like-minded nations.

Only days later, following more concerns expressed in the media and diplomatic approaches from a number of nations, including Australia, Dr. Kang announced that his country was seriously considering alternative, non-lethal research methods and might not resort to scientific whaling.

Then, during the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on 12 July, Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Kim Sung-hwan advised Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr that South Korea would take the advice of the International Whaling Commission on the subject, indicating that plans for scientific whaling might not proceed.

To date, however, there has been no definitive statement from South Korea that their proposal for scientific whaling has been officially abandoned.


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