Study uncovers troubling sources of Japanese whale meatJuly 2nd, 2009 by cdunagan
Is all whaling the same? I don’t think so, but I am beginning to see why anti-whaling groups wish to draw a line in the sand and stop all whale killing.
I admit I am fascinated by the program “Whale Wars” on the Animal Planet network. The weekly show gives us an inside look at how the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society confronts Japanese whalers in the Antarctic.
I also admit to believing that Japanese whalers are probably not taking enough minke whales to harm the regional population in the Antarctic. And surely the so-called “scientific research” is at least keeping track of the populations, the number of whales killed and their genetic makeup.
But new research coming out of Oregon State University has profoundly shifted my attitude about Japanese whaling and the dire need for increased international attention.
DNA analysis of whale meat sold to the public has revealed that perhaps as many whales are killed in coastal areas near Japan and South Korea — where whaling is outlawed under international agreement — as are taken in the Antarctic.
How can this be?
The dead minke whales from coastal waters, apparently not always counted, are attributed to incidental “bycatch” in net fisheries, according to Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at OSU.
Japan and South Korea are the only countries that allow this kind of bycatch to be sold, he says.
Baker and his colleague, Vimoksalehi Lukoscheck of the University of California-Irvine, presented their findings at the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission. It was there that Japan was seeking approval to allow whaling off its coast.
Baker says the Japanese proposal demands careful scrutiny, given his findings and the need to identify and sustain distinct stocks of minke whales.
.“The sale of bycatch alone supports a lucrative trade in whale meat at markets in some Korean coastal cities, where the wholesale price of an adult minke whale can reach as high as $100,000,” Baker said in an OSU news release. “Given these financial incentives, you have to wonder how many of these whales are, in fact, killed intentionally.”
Baker said the bycatch of whales provides a cover for illegal whaling, which is difficult to detect. Last year, Korean police began to look into organized illegal whaling in the port town of Ulsan, where they seized 50 tons minke whale meat.
Baker’s genetic studies have identified other whale meat on the market as well — including some from humpback whales, fin whales, Bryde’s whales and the critically endangered western Pacific gray whales, which may be on the verge of extinction.
I believe hunting has its place in wildlife management, but the Asian marketing in dead whales appears to be out of control and troubling on many levels.