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Korean Whaling


Mother and calf Minke Whales hauled aboard the Nisshin Maru. Photo: Australian Customs

South Korea is a nation of contradictions when it comes to the killing of whales. For years Korea has criticized Japan for using science as an excuse for commercial whaling.

This week however, at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Panama, South Korea announced that they want to begin a scientific research project, reasoning that if Japan can get away with pulling the wool over the world’s eyes than they can do so also. The difference being that Korea is openly saying that scientific research whaling is a bogus excuse for commercial whaling but if the excuse works for Japan it will also work for Korea.

South Korea has their own sly way of killing whales. For years they have allowed Korean fishermen to “harvest” whales caught “accidently” in their fishing nets. As a result the incidents of whales caught accidently in fishing nets has exceeded the number of whales caught in fishing nets throughout the rest of the world.

The South Korean fishermen are saying they need to cull whale numbers because the Minke whales are eating all “their” fish. Minke whales feed primarily on krill and very small fish and they are a part of the complex eco-system that exists in harmony with other species. Human fishermen on the other hand with heavy gear, technology, and excessive demands are exhausting fish species and like fishermen everywhere they are using other species as scapegoats for their own greed.

What Can Sea Shepherd Do?

At this point, South Korea has simply served notice of their intent to conduct their so-called scientific research program. They will not be killing any whales directly for at least another year and most likely not for another two years. This gives us adequate time to prepare a strategy to confront them.

This will not be that easy. Whereas the Japanese whalers are targeting whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary the Koreans intend to target their victims in Korean waters. This is not unknown territory for Sea Shepherd. We have confronted Norwegian, Icelandic, Canadian, American, Russian, and Faeroese whalers in their own territorial waters. It tends to be more controversial and more confrontational but it has been effective.

Our immediate objective before moving onto the Sea of Japan is to put an end to the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In the meantime, international and domestic pressure may force South Korea to reconsider joining the whale-killing club.

We can only hope.

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