South Korea unveils 'scientific' whaling proposal


Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully give their reaction (whaling footage courtesy of Greenpeace)

Related Stories

South Korea is proposing to hunt whales under regulations permitting scientific research whaling, echoing the programmes of its neighbour, Japan.

Hunting would take place near the Korean coast on minke whales. How many would be caught is unclear.

The South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) said the research was needed "for the proper assessment of whale stocks".

Many governments at the IWC meeting condemned the Korean announcement.

There are several different stocks, or groups, of minke whales in the region, and one of the them, the so-called J-stock, is severely depleted.

Given that fact, "we believe that scientific whaling on this stock borders on the reckless," New Zealand's delegation head, Gerard van Bohemen said.

But Joon-Suk Kang, the head of the South Korean delegation, said the programme was necessary to answer questions about minke whale stocks that non-lethal research had been unable to solve.

The Legalities of Whaling

  • Objection - A country formally objects to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, declaring itself exempt. Example: Norway
  • Scientific - A nation issues unilateral "scientific permits"; any IWC member can do this. Example: Japan
  • Indigenous (also known as Aboriginal subsistence) - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food. Example: Alaskan Inupiat

He said the proposal was not finalised, and that whaling would not begin until plans had been discussed by an international group of expert scientists convened by the IWC.

The Koreans' eventual stated aim is to prepare the ground for a resumption of "coastal whaling" - a rather vague concept that Japan is also pursuing, and that would see whale hunting return as a normal activity.

'Breach of faith'

The region around the port of Ulsan, in the south-east of South Korea, has a whale-eating tradition that appears to date back thousands of years, judging by prehistoric cave art.

Fishermen in the region already catch whales in fishing nets. Officially, this happens accidentally, but local environment groups say the minkes are deliberately caught, and that the meat is easily bought in markets and restaurants.

Dr Kang said that fishermen in the area are now complaining that a growing whale population is eating more and more fish.

Any government is entitled under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to embark unilaterally on a scientific hunting programme, although Japan is the only one that currently does so.

Minke whale poking its head out of the water (file photo) Some minke whale stocks around South Korea are already severely depleted

Anti-whaling governments and conservation groups argue that Japan's programmes in the North Pacific and Antarctic are an abuse of process, as the regulation was originally designed to allow for the taking of a few whales here and there, and not hundreds per year.

They argue that the real purpose is to provide a supply of whale meat, albeit to a dwindling customer base.

"Scientific whaling is an obsolete and sad consequence of a document drafted 60 years ago," said Monaco's IWC commissioner, Frederic Briand.

"There's no reason to do it, given the enormous body of scientific literature [on cetaceans] obtained via non-lethal means."

South Korea was one of the first countries to take the scientific whaling route after the global moratorium on commercial hunting came into place in 1986, but the programme was in operation for just a single season.

Then, the country came under intense diplomatic pressure to stop, and Dr Kang admitted to BBC News that his government is now likely to feel a similarly huge pressure not to start.

However, Korea, Japan, Iceland and Norway all complain regularly that anti-whaling governments have no intention of ever agreeing to a resumption of hunting anywhere, however healthy the stocks, and that this amounts to a breach of promises made when the moratorium came into existence.

Troubled waters

Earlier, Japan lodged a proposal to allow coastal whaling by four villages around the coast - among them Ayukawa, which was devastated by the 2011 tsunami.

It has tabled similar bids for many years, and they have always been defeated by anti-whaling governments, who view the move as a way of breaking the whaling moratorium.

Here, Australia's Donna Petrochenko was one of many taking the same line, telling the meeting: "This is commercial whaling, clear and simple."

Japan put its proposal to one side and it will be discussed again later in the meeting, although it is doubtful whether it will go to a vote, given that Japan clearly does not have the three-quarters share of the vote it would need to win.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • Comment number 17.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This is very sad news indeed, research should be carried by all means, as long as no harm comes of it. These mamals are very inteligent and have been on this planet alot longer than we have. It would be different is we Humans were the target of research or culling because we were to many, hmmmmm nearly 7 Billion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Would anyone be surprised if they were the reason the Dinosaurs became extinct?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    12. " won't be buying from Samsung again, then - or any other product from S.Korea. Pity. Apple will do well from this"
    Bang goes the Galaxy. I guess they could put a lot of pressure on the S Korea Govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It is very sad when intelligent creatures such as whales, octopus etc are killed for food. As far as I am aware, no one kills and eats dolphins and most would shudder at the thought, so why is it ok for whales ?
    I can understand why the Inuit do it - their survival depends on it and they take only what they need, but there is no real excuse for developed nations to do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I won't be buying from Samsung again, then - or any other product from S.Korea. Pity. Apple will do well from this.

    I assume that they'll be submitting a research proposal specifying the aims of their "scientific" research, and then publish the results somewhere? And of course, as with any experiment involving animals, the remains will be correctly disposed of afterward?

    I thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Obviously whaling should be outlawed. The main protaganists (Japan, S Korea, & Norway) should be classified as un-civilised & therefore be subjected to ongoing formal & informal protests & international sanctions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Scientific research....piffle....don't insult my intelligence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Surely we can share scientific data between countries thus nreducing the need to go out and kill more of these beautiful creatures.
    This is nothing more than a SHAM and the Koreans should be ashamed even using this as an excuse, speak with your neighbours Japan they will give you all the information you require as they murder enough per every year

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It's about time this barbaric activity was stopped. If so many countries are against it, why aren't they doing more to stop it? Why aren't they supporting Greenpeace's efforts?

    Obviously too scared of Japan and S Korea or too much red tape stopping them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Untruthful, Ugly and Barbaric!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Sadly Walrus (1) money is the only thing they understand, and badly at that. There goes the desire for Samsung products, damn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Just calling the whale population "stock" shows the world what the whalers think of these beautiful, intelligent creatures.

    So they eat fish (though they don't) What would happen if an alien race came down to this planet and culled us because we consume too many resources? we would be the first to fight back.

    It is a selection of govts "scientifically" hunting whales for the food markets

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The sea shepherd's are the only group actively policing the open ocean for illegal fishing, They are not mandated nor funded by governments, time they were. I am a commercial fisherman, 90% of all the large fish in the sea are gone. shark fining, whale hunting, seal clubbing, and the rest are symptoms of criminal management by governments, often blamed on fishermen. We must try harder, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Difficult one, what should we be allowed to kill to eat & what we shouldn't.
    Anyway, take a look at this link
    May provoke some thought

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    "Dr Kang said that fishermen in the area are now complaining that a growing whale population is eating more and more fish" - Minke are baleen whales, and eat krill not fish!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The only thing that S Korea and Japan understand is money. If we refrained from buying goods from those countries as a protest against whaling, then they might understand why we are against killing whales (for money).


Page 10 of 10


More Science & Environment stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.