Environmentalists call on government to ban trade in whale meat

Survey shows whales in serious trouble

Press release - 2 April, 2005
The Korean Federation for Environment Movement (KFEM) called on the Korean government today to ban the nation’s lucrative trade in whale meat.

A South Korean whale meat monger prepares a dish for customers in Pusan.

KFEM has been conducting a non-lethal, scientificsurvey on whales and dolphins for the past eleven days off the Koreancoast, on board the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior. Preliminaryresults (1) indicate that whales and dolphins in the area are inserious trouble and that they face many threats, the most serious ofwhich are over-fishing and high incidents of 'accidental'by-catch. 

"We've been lucky enough to see some beautiful andrare creatures in these waters - common and bottlenose dolphins,finless and Dall's porpoise and a minke whale. But I would've expectedto see more," said Libby Eyre, marine biologist and independentobserver who led the cetacean survey.(2) 

"It's clear cetaceans have a great deal to contendwith in this environment. I'm particularly concerned about the sheernumber of fishing vessels, traps and nets I've seen here; concerns thatare shared by scientists around the world," she added.

Only one minke whale (/Balaenopteraacutorostrata/) was sighted, even though they are the most populous ofall the whale species in Korean waters. This lends support toscientific studies (3) which state that minkes, far from increasing,have actually continued to decrease in the area since whaling wasbanned in 1986, due to high levels of 'accidental' by-catch. 

"The only effective conservation strategy forwhales and dolphins is a total ban on whaling in all its forms. As afirst step, the government must remove the incentive for 'accidental'whaling by banning the trade in whale meat. It's clear that, whilethere's a lucrative price paid for dead whales in Korea, they'llcontinue to be hunted and legally sold on the open market as by-catch.Unless this trade stops, our minke whales will continue to be caughtand killed and, like the rare Korean gray whale, will spiral towardsextinction," said KFEM Chairman, Mr. Yoon.

An average of 100 whales are trapped in fishingnets in Korea every year, in spite of the authorities attempts toregulate it. This is higher than every other country in the world,except Japan. Government statistics for 2003 (4), show that the numberof 'accidental' catches in countries that trade in whale meat, such asKorea, are on average over ten times higher than catches in countriesthat do not trade in whale meat.

"Greenpeace fully supports KFEM's call for anationwide ban on the trade in whale meat. Banning the trade in whalemeat would give a clear signal to the world that Korea cares about itsenvironment, and that it can and will stand firm against thepro-whaling lobby led by the government of Japan at the upcoming IWCmeeting in June," said Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, JimWickens.

Other contacts: Mr. Choi, Ye-Yong, Senior Researcher, KFEM, on +82 (0)16 458 7488 Jim Wickens, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner on +82 (0)10 2233 0760Matilda Bradshaw, Greenpeace International communications, on +82 (0)10 2233 0753Rainbow Warrior satellite phone: +87 324 453 510

Notes: (1)The full written report of the survey will be available before the 57th International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting will take place between 27 May and 24 June in Ulsan, south Korea. It will be made available from www.comebackwhales.com(2)Libby Eyre is has been observing whales and dolphins for 20 years. She is a biological sciences museum curator and scientific officer at Macquarie University, Sydney.(3)“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.(4)Government by-catch statistics for 2003, submitted to the IWC in 2004.

Exp. contact date: 2006-04-13 00:00:00