Korea's whaling plan draws fire
By Kim Bo-eun
South Korea is under fire from the international community over its plan to resume whaling.
Officials from the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries say it is for research purposes, but other countries suspect that it is a cover for commercial whaling.
Korean officials announced the plan Wednesday at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama.
Kang Joon-suk, a ministry official, said whaling would take place only in Korean waters, unlike Japan, which has angered Australia and New Zealand by killing hundreds of whales a year in the Antarctic.
He stated, ”The proposed scientific research program is designed to analyze and accumulate biological and ecological data on the minke whales migrating off the Korean Peninsula.”
Immediately after the announcement, the United States said it was “extremely concerned” about the resumption of whaling, and asked Korea to drop its plan, together with Australia and New Zealand.
“We are extremely concerned about South Korea’s push to kill whales in the name of research,” said Russell Smith, deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
New Zealand also made it clear that it would oppose Korea’s plan, claiming that it would put the whale population at risk. It claimed that Japan had not made any scientific contributions.
“It is unnecessary and reckless,” said its anti-whaling commissioner Gerard van Bohemen.
Wendy Elliot from the World Wide Fund for Nature pointed out that if Korea wanted to conduct research on whales, they could do so with the bycatch, and that Korea’s announcement to start whaling again was just another tactic to engage in commercial whaling.
Whaling has been banned by the IWC since 1986, when a moratorium was imposed due to the decreasing minke whale population.
However, Korean officials said that the minke whale population has increased rapidly since the moratorium went into effect.
They also noted that the country has a long history of consuming whale meat, saying the last 26 years has been painful and frustrating for people who caught whales for meat.
Korea had conducted whaling for one season following the moratorium in 1986. A report by the commission said that the nation had killed 69 minke whales and provided no evidence that they were used for research.