News article published on Nature News Blog on 5 July, 2012.
South Korea has announced that it hopes to launch a programme of ‘scientific’ whaling, a development that would make it the second such country to engage in the practice alongside Japan.
The South Korean delegation to the 64th conference of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), now meeting in Panama, said on Wednesday that the move is necessary to assess the size of the populations of minke whales off the Korean coast.
“Since 2001, the Korean government has been conducting a non-lethal sighting survey of the whale population to assess the status of the stock in Korean waters,” Joon-Suk Kang, the head of the delegation told the meeting in a prepared address. “But it has turned out that this survey alone cannot identify the different whale stocks and has delayed the proper assessment of the resources.”
Seoul says that it cannot correctly identify the feeding habits of the animals or the impact of the whale population on fisheries.
The delegation did not state how many whales it aimed to catch, but its research programme will investigate minke whales migrating off the Korean peninsula. One of the populations of minke whales in the region comes from the depleted ‘J-stock’.
State signatories to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling do not need permission from the ICW to begin scientific whaling, and the ICW is in any case a voluntary organization. The move can be taken unilaterally, although Seoul said that any such whaling will not be launched before the country’s research plan had been considered by the IWC’s scientific committee.
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