Chosun Online Japanese Edition reported on November 18th, 2013 that in September, investigators in Yeongcheon city, South Korea, ‘searched a walk in freezer where they found more than 100 wooden boxes measuring 30cm x 50cm, inside each was 25kg of minke whale meat. The report estimates that on the black market, the freezer’s entire contents could sell for KRW100 million. All of the meat is from illegally killed minke whales.’
The illegal whaling was reported as involving ‘shipowners, harpooners, transporters on both land and sea, and distributors’, all seperate business, but apparantly working together to exploit the illegal whaling. ‘Investigators believe there are more illegal whaling rings and are continuing investigative efforts.’
The report states that police believe that the illegal whaling was all done by experienced hand-harpooners. Such whaling is hugely cruel, involving unimaginable suffering for the whales.
According to investigators, ‘illegal whaling is more widespread than they had initially thought. The prosecutor said: “Whales that die after being entangled in fishing nets and [the meat of which is] traded legally number about 90 every year, but the amount of whale meat on the market is significantly more than that which would come from those 90 whales.” Investigators believe that about 15 vessels are being used in the illegal whaling operations.’
WDC welcomes the actions of the Korean authorities in trying to crack down in this illegal and cruel whaling. Last year, Korean representatives at the IWC appeared to indicate that they would resume ‘scientific whaling’, but after a global outcry and opposition from korean NGOs, the Korean government backtracked and stated that they would not be submitting any such proposal.
WDC suggested at the time that Korean fisheries officials had been only been willing to make such a proposal because they could not control illegal whaling and scientifc whaling quotas could be used to spuriously ‘legitimise a crime’ and so falsely prevent further illegality.
However, domestic and international attention meant that Korean authorities appear to have now chosen to seek to enforce the law rather than giving into corrupt and illegal activities; which should be welcomed by all. We should also be congratulating the Korean authorities for standing up for the whales and international law.