Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Guest blogger: The whale yawns 

A minor diplomatic skirmish between Australia and Japan has been recently amusing those who are amused by these sorts of things. At the heart of the dispute, Japan's apparent regular circumventing of international agreements protecting whales, through the practice of "scientific whaling", that is killing several hundred whales a year seemingly for the purposes of scientific research, otherwise known as the "great scientific seafood take-away":

Japan claims it needs to harpoon the whales and dissect them to determine migration patterns as well as gain data on their feeding and breeding habits. It insists that subsequently serving the whalemeat at restaurants and for school lunches is merely the best way to dispose of the carcases.

While scientific hunts are permitted under the IWC's regulations, the sale of about 2,000 tons of meat a year earns more than £28 million. The profits are put back into the whaling fleet.
Australians also tend to be protective of "our" whales, while Japan never tires of reminding us that whales don't acquire our nationality just because they occasionally frequent our territorial waters.

Our man on the ground in South Korea, John Kennett, reports live from the city of Ulsan, where the whales are very much on the international agenda - and on the menu.

The whale yawns

Here in Ulsan, South Korea, the 57 International Whaling Commission opened on last Friday, May 27. There will about 10,000 people with some interest in whaling here at different times over the next 29 days.

There couldn't be any less interest in the meeting in the Korean press if they tried! I have only come across one or two stories, noting that it has started. This is the biggest international event in Korea since the World Cup, in 2002, yet there has been almost no coverage of it.

The banners are competing for space with the banners for the International Windsurfing Championships, the Korean Archery Finals, and the 82nd Korean Athletics Competition. Ulsan will be busy in the next few weeks, and I think that all of the meetings are getting the same amount of coverage - none.

I saw a couple of news stories on KBS (Korean Broadcasting Service), in Korean, noting that there are some 'foreign' anti-whaling protesters coming here, but that's it.

Ulsan City Council has gone all out for the event, with all light poles on main roads flying banners and flags welcoming the Commission delegates. I headed down to Lotte Hotel (on my way to Lotte Cinema, which is in the attached Lotte Department Store - ahh, Korean conglomerates are so creative in naming things!), the main base for meetings, to see if there were any protesters there, and all I could see was a giant whale made of flowers at the entrance - but no environmentalists - it was a sunny weekend though, perhaps they were busy?

So little difference has the IWC made to Ulsan, that the Whale Restaurant not a 10 minute walk from Lotte Hotel is still open, and as popular as ever - where are Greenpeace?

Not coming, one hopes, or perhaps they are saving their Korean travel funds to come back in November to protest at APEC in Busan - Bush and Howard will be there among others, so it would be more important for groups such as Greenpeace to come to protest the war in Iraq, than any whaling that the Koreans or the Japanese are doing, seeing as whaling has little to do with environmentalism.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?