Environmentalists expose Korea’s back door plans to hunt whales

Press release - 7 April, 2005
Greenpeace and Korean Federation for Environment Movement (KFEM) today exposed plans by the South Korean government to build a whale and dolphin meat processing factory. (1) The factory will be built in Ulsan, known as the “city of whales”, the venue for this year’s International Whaling Commission meeting. (2)

Activists in Ulsan protest Korean plans to return to whaling.

This morning, 50 activists from around the world set up a protest camp, or 'Whale Embassy', at the site. They erected a 12m high beacon as a symbol of the danger for whales. Two activists sat on top of the beacon and held a banner that read "sanctuary not cemetery" while others unfurled another that stated "extinction starts here". The activists locked arms in solidarity on the ground designated for the factory. They were flanked by two large inflatable whales, which sat amongst a symbolic cemetery of headstones shaped like whale flukes.

"We're here to sound the alarm that whales are in grave danger. These plans could be the first step on the road towards a resumption of the whaling industry. Why would the South Korean government invest in a brand new whale and dolphin meat processing factory unless it's already decided to rebuild its whaling industry? Let them deny if it's not true," said Jim Wickens, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, speaking from the protest camp.

The hunting of whales is banned internationally (3) but the South Korean government currently sanctions a national trade in the meat of whales and dolphins that are caught "accidentally" in nets. Government statistics show around a hundred times more whales are "accidentally" caught in Korea than in countries that do not have a domestic whale meat market. (4) Scientists believe that even the most populous whale species in Korean waters, minke whales, are in serious decline because of this trade. (5)

"Whales in Korea's oceans, like whales everywhere, need urgent protection. History shows us that killing them in the name of science or commerce will lead to their demise. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the past, let's protect our ocean life and make our seas a whale sanctuary, instead of a whale cemetery," said Choi, Ye-Yong, Planning Director, KFEM. 

Other contacts: For images of today's action, please contact John Novis, Greenpeace International picture desk on +31 6538 19121Video: Maarten van Rouveroy, Greenpeace International video desk on +31 (0) 646 19 7322For images on site in Korea: Matilda Bradshaw, Greenpeace International Communications +82 (0)10 2233 0753

VVPR info: Mr. Choi, Ye-Yong, Planning Director, KFEM, on +82 (0)16 458 7488 Jim Wickens, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, currently in Korea on +82 (0)10 2233 0760 Matilda Bradshaw, Greenpeace International communications, currently in Korea, on +82 (0)10 2233 0753 Rainbow Warrior satellite phone: +87 324 453 510

Notes: (1) The factory is due to be built towards the end of this year. (2) The 57th International Whaling Commission meeting will be held on 20-24 June 2005. (3) The international community banned whaling in 1982 because attempts to regulate the industry had failed and whale populations were dwindling. Several whale populations, including blue whales and Korea's western pacific gray whales still face extinction. The whaling lobby is attempting to rekindle trade in whale meat worldwide by calling for ”sustainable” catches and an increase of lethal, so called “scientific” whaling, which would pave the way for a full scale whaling industry.(4) Government by-catch statistics for 2003, submitted to the IWC in 2004. (5) “Predicted decline of protected whales based on molecular genetic monitoring of Japanese and Korean markets,” C.S.Baker, G.M. Lento, F. Cipriano and S.R. Palumbi (2000), Royal Society of London, Series B. 267:1191-1199. The report states that, even if current by-catch rates of minkes in Korea were reduced by 50%, they would continue to decline. For graphic illustrations of the government by-catch statistics and the scientific data, see: http://www.comebackwhales.com/english/whales/science.htm and http://www.comebackwhales.com/english/whaling/korea.htm.For further information on the KFEM and Greenpeace campaign to protect whales, see: http://www.comebackwhales.com/english/news/

Exp. contact date: 2005-04-13 00:00:00