US objects to SKorean whaling plan

July 6, 2012 - 12:39 AM

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The United States says it doesn't support a South Korean plan to restart whale hunting for purportedly scientific purposes.

South Korea made public its intention to revive whaling at the annual meeting this week of the International Whaling Commission in Panama.

Russell F. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for International Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday the U.S. didn't believe that killing whales is necessary for scientific research, and he added that the South Koreans wanted to hunt Minke whales, which are in danger of extinction.

A number of countries assert their right to carry out whaling for scientific purposes, although the whale meat and other products are often sold for food, leading environmental groups to label the research as a pretext for hunting. The whaling commission is charged with helping global whale populations recover from decades of hunting that pushed many species close to extinction, but it allows whales to be caught for scientific research.

Korean officials said that they wanted to study the whales' fish consumption because of fishing industry complaints that the growing whale population is reducing stocks of fish. Smith said South Korea could study whales that are accidentally caught in fishermen's nets, and additional hunting was unnecessary.

Smith said South Korea would present a formal proposal at next year's meeting.

Meanwhile, the International Whaling Commission rejected a request from Denmark for a whaling quota for indigenous groups in Greenland.

The commission voted 34-25 to reject the request for a quota of 1,300 whales over the next six years.

The Thursday vote by the commission comes two days after it approved the renewal of bowhead whale quotas for indigenous subsistence whaling in Alaska and Russia and for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. The six-year extension was approved at the IWC's annual meeting in Panama City.