Victory for whales, but danger still lurks

Feature story - 21 June, 2005
Despite underhand tactics, the Japanese government has failed once more in its attempt to pave the way towards commercial whaling. This is fantastic news for whales ... but the battle is not over. Several minke whales have been "accidentally" caught in Korea over the last few days, and we have secured shocking hidden camera footage of how easy it is to buy a harpoon for illegal whaling.

A ceremony at the Ulsan Whale Festival, in Ulsan, South Korea, during the IWC meeting.

Today at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Ulsan, SouthKorea, anti-whaling nations won a historic victory. The commissionfirmly rejecting a Japanese government proposal which would have paved the way towards a lifting of the ban on commercialwhaling. It was voted down 29 votes to 23.

Interestingly, Korea, which traditionally has voted with thepro-whaling bloc, abstained from the vote.  Our activists here atthe Whale Embassy in Ulsan, South Korea were delighted at this news.Through pressure here on the ground and pressure from cyberactivistsaround the world,  we have made real headway in convincing theKoreangovernment not to risk their international reputation by becoming asupporter of commercialwhaling. It is a big step forward for Korea.

However, coinciding with the IWC has been Ulsan's "Whale Festival" -which celebrates Ulsan's history of whaling.  It is legal to eat whalemeat in Korea if the whale was caught and killed accidentally while fishing - knownas "bycatch".  But by some "amazing coincidence"  several minkewhales have been "accidentally" caught just in time for the Festival

. One juvenile minke whale, caught just two days ago, was sold for about USD$31,000.

Further evidence that some accidents aren't accidental came when we obtained footage of how easy it is to buy awhaling harpoon  in South Korea. The footagewas filmed via a hidden camera in an ordinary fishing tacklestore.  The following dialogue occurs on camera:


: Whales sell for a lot of money.


: I heard there are a lot of harpoon guns on sale at the moment…


: Dolphins used tosell for around 300 000 won (approximately USD$300), nowadays they canfetch up to (USD$600) 600 000 to 700 000 won (USD $700).


Yesterday I tried to find one, but I had no luck, there weren't any around. The captain asked me to find one.

The customer goes on to buy a whale harpoon that can hold a whale of upto one ton.  We have also obtained the whaling harpoon itself asproofthat this activity is still happening in Korea.

This is just one example of why, despite today's great victory atthe IWC, there are still threats to whales and dolphins.  Thereare loopholes that allow "Scientific whaling" and the underground tradein "bycatch", which according toRoyal Society research,  threatens to drive the Korean populationof minke whales to extinction even if commercial whaling is notresumed.  

Of course there are also several more days where whales issues willbe hotly debated at the IWC including a proposal by the Japanesegovernment to abolish the Southern Whale Sanctuary.

For now though, we have succeeded in keeping the IWC moratorium onwhaling firmly in place, convinced Korea not to build a whale meatfactory, taken 51,000 people to a Virtual March at the IWC, and continued to pressure Iceland through the Iceland pledge.To be a part of our ongoing efforts, sign up now to be a Greenpeacecyberactivist.  The whales are counting on your continued vigilance.

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