(In para 11, Campbell is on the board of activist group, not on
PANAMA CITY, July 5 South Korea on Wednesday
proposed resuming whaling for scientific research, angering
other Asian countries and conservationists who said the practice
would skirt a global ban on whale hunting.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would fight
the proposal, which was made at a meeting of the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama City.
Critics said the move to pursue whaling in domestic waters
was modelled on Japan's introduction of scientific whaling after
the IWC imposed a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Japan says it has a right to monitor the whales' impact on
its fishing industry. South Korea says whaling is a longstanding
Anti-whaling activists regularly harass Japanese vessels
engaging in their annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean off
Australia and Antarctica, with the two sides sometimes clashing
violently. At least one activist boat has sunk in recent years.
In Seoul, a government official said South Korea abided by
international regulations and it would be up to the IWC to
assess its proposal.
"We've submitted a proposal to the IWC's Scientific
Committee to resume scientific whaling in our waters and will
await the committee's assessment," said an official at the Food,
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
"If it says it is not adequate in their assessment of the
legitimacy of scientific research, we'll make further
South Korea said its fishermen were complaining that growing
whale populations were depleting fishing stocks, an assertion
that the World Wildlife Fund said had no scientific basis.
Environmental activists dismissed the term scientific
whaling as a thinly veiled ruse to conduct commercial whaling.
"It's an absolute shock this happened at this meeting and
it's an absolute disgrace because to say that hunting whales is
happening in the name of science is just wrong," James Lorenz
from Greenpeace told Australian television. "Essentially, it's
commercial whaling in another form."
The minke whales that South Korea proposes hunting are
considered endangered, the World Wildlife Fund said in a
Former Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell, now on
the board of the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd, said
the organisation would "have to get organised to go out to the
oceans and save the whales off South Korea".
AUSTRALIA TO PROTEST, SAYS PM
Australia has long opposed Japanese whaling and Gillard said
it would lodge a diplomatic protest against South Korea's move.
"We will make our voices heard today," she told reporters.
"Our ambassador will speak to counterparts in South Korea at the
highest levels of the South Korea government and indicate
Australia's opposition to this decision."
Australia has filed a complaint against Japan at the
International Court of Justice in The Hague to stop scientific
whaling. A decision is expected in 2013 or later.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the
announcement was a setback to global conservation efforts as
whales in its waters were already targeted by Japan.
"The portrayal of this initiative as a 'scientific'
programme will have no more credibility than the so-called
scientific programme conducted by Japan, which has long been
recognised as commercial whaling in drag," he said in a
Panama's delegate to the IWC conference, Tomas Guardia,
denounced the South Korean proposal "because it goes against the
ban ... we don't support whale hunting under any circumstances".
Twitter was awash with condemnations.
"I don't care what justification you give," wrote a user
identifying herself as Savannah, from Australia. "It's crap.
Stop killing whales."
Many Koreans view whale meat as a delicacy. Murals some
5,000 years old depicting whaling have been excavated around
Ulsan, centre of the whaling industry on the southeastern coast
since the late 19th century.
Officials say that before South Korea joined the moratorium
in 1986, its average annual catch was 600 whales, most of which
was consumed. Whaling is now subject to prosecution and
punishable by a jail or fines, but meat is available from mostly
minke that get caught in fishing nets "by accident" or wash
(Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City, Jack Kim and
Laeticia Ock in Seoul, and James Grubel and Maggie Lu YueYang in
Canberra; Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)