South Korean ‘clamp Down’ On Illegal Whaling May Worsen The Problem
The South Korean Agriculture Ministry has announced that the government will tighten domestic rules on whaling and the processing of whale meat, requiring fishermen who catch hundreds of whales a year in their nets to report incidents to police immediately and establishing a permitting process for trade in whale meat.
Fishermen who catch whales will be required by law to process and sell the carcasses only at state-designated facilities and only those with state permits will be allowed to trade whale meat. To assist tracing the origin of whale meat on the market, DNA samples of dead whales must be submitted to authorities for registration.
South Korea acknowledges a "growing amount of illegal whale hunting". It has banned commercial hunting since 1986 when the IWC adopted the moratorium on commercial whaling, but allows the domestic sale of whales caught dead in fishing nets on washed up dead onshore. This provides a cover for unscrupulous fishermen who target whales with their nets, a reality vividly documented by genetic analysis of individual whales in the market place.
Experts analyzing the market in South Korea recently revealed that fishermen grossly under-report bycatch; they estimated that 827 minke whales were caught in nets between 1999 and 2003 compared to official reports of 458 over that period. WDCS welcomes better reporting of bycatch in South Korea but, with an adult minke whale worth up to $100,000, warns that better enforcement is also needed to prevent abuse of the new rules.
Without widespread and effective surveillance of fishing operations to detect illegal whaling and on-board processing, WDCS fears that Government-approved sales of bycaught whales could fuel more illegal whaling on an already imperiled population.
C. Scott Baker, Justin Cooke, Shane Lavery, Merel L. Dalebout, Yong-un Mas, Naoko Funahashi, Colm Carraher and Robert L Brownell. 2007. Estimating. the number of whales entering trade using DNA profiling and capture-recapture analysis of market products.
Molecular Ecology 16. 13. P 2617 - 2626