April 19, 2014 06:53 UTC

Science & Technology

Should Whales Be Hunted or Watched?

Learn a word! Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Spectators  watch whales off the coast of southern California
Spectators watch whales off the coast of southern California

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
TEXT SIZE - +
* This report has been updated below

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Shirley Griffith.
 
And I’m Christopher Cruise. Today, we tell about whales. Some people want to hunt the animals, while others simply enjoy watching them in the wild. We tell about a plan for an American aquarium to import beluga whales from Russia. And we talk about a whale that could make human-like sounds.
 
Environmental activists in South Korea are condemning a government plan to hunt endangered whales for scientific research. They believe the plan is part of an effort to re-start commercial whaling activities. Such activities are banned in many countries.

South Korea announced the proposal in July at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Panama. The head of the South Korean delegation said the plan was needed to answer questions about minke whale populations. He said the hunt would take place near the South Korean coast. But he did not say how many of the animals would be caught.
 
The International Whaling Commission has yet to make a decision on the South Korean plan. 
 
The organization banned commercial whaling in 1986 because of concerns about the survival of whale species. But now, some South Korean fishermen say they are facing a threat from minke whales. They say these animals are eating what would have been their catch.
 
The plan was immediately condemned by anti-whaling nations. Wildlife activists also criticized the proposal. Han Jeong-hee works in Seoul for the environmental group Greenpeace.
 
“It’s really regretful to hear that Korean government is, like, considering conducting scientific whaling. Scientific whaling is just, like, thinly-disguised commercial whaling. And, you know, we are of course against all commercial whaling. Japan’s the only country which is doing scientific whaling at the moment and Korea is just trying to follow that.”
 
Korea has a long history of whaling. Cave paintings found on the south coast show images of whale hunts. But such hunts and the use of whale meat as food did not really become popular until late in the nineteenth century.
 
Every year, the South Korean town of Ulsan holds an event that re-creates those whaling expeditions. Visitors are urged to eat at local restaurants that serve whale meat.
 
South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries says the goal of the plan is to help fishermen. It notes that limited whaling for scientific research is permitted under the commercial whaling ban. Japan has continued hunting whales under this exception.
 
Critics of whaling do not believe claims by Japan that its whaling activities are for scientific research. They note that whale meat from the hundreds of whales killed in the hunt is sold to the Japanese public.
 
Recently, we asked the International Whaling Commission about the South Korean request. Commission spokesman Simon Brockington told VOA by e-mail that since the July meeting, “there has been no further communication from the Government of the Republic of Korea to the IWC on this issue.”
 
The next meeting of the commission’s Scientific Committee is set for next year. Mr. Brockington said the IWC’s rules require “governments to provide the Commission’s scientific committee with copies of the proposed permits in time for them to be reviewed.”
 
He added that “at the current time, no such copies have been received.”     
 
Four months ago, the South Korean government reported to the country’s lawmakers about the plan to re-start whaling. A Foreign Ministry official says the plan is still under consideration.
 
She says the government will listen to the opinions of concerned organizations and members of the International Whaling Commission.
 
Earlier in this report, we heard from Han Jeong-hee of Greenpeace. She says pro-whaling forces appear to be in control of the South Korean government.
 
“Suddenly they just reported this about the task force and going back to the scientific whaling decision. This is very disappointing. We hope the government change their mind again and go for non-lethal research.”
 
Lee Hae-chan is the head of South Korea’s main opposition. He says some people in coastal communities support the idea of research whaling because it will help the local economy.
 
Mr. Lee admits that his country no longer faces poverty and does not need whale meat for protein. But he says if there is a true need for scientific research, limited whaling might be acceptable.
 
Lee Man-woo is vice representative of the Whale Culture Preservation Association in Ulsan. He and others say whaling has been a part of Korean culture for thousands of years. He also says meat from hunted whales should not be wasted. His group says it should be sold at a reasonable price to foreign tourists and to those who like to eat whale meat. Recently, a small serving of meat sold in Ulsan for up to $50.
 
Both South Korea and Japan say there are so many whales in their waters that these largest of all mammals are eating too much fish.
 
Japan has been widely criticized for its research program. Thousands of whales have been killed in the northern Pacific and near Antarctic waters since the 1980s.
 
An aquarium in the American state of Georgia wants to import eighteen beluga whales from Russia. The United States currently has 31 beluga whales. They are living in six aquariums and marine parks. Four of them are at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
 
The Georgia Aquarium has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for permission to import the beluga whales. If approved, aquarium officials would send some of the animals to the other facilities.
 
The Georgia Aquarium says it hopes to use the beluga whales in research, education and breeding programs. They currently are being held at a Russian research center. Yet many people oppose the plan. They say it is wrong to keep any wild animal captive.
 
In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held a hearing on the proposal. More than 130 people attended the meeting. NOAA says it received about eight thousand nine hundred written comments about the Georgia Aquarium’s plan. Because of the great interest in the subject, the agency gave 60 days for public comments. Usually, people are given 30 days.
 
NOAA officials are studying how the beluga whales might be affected by being brought to the United States. They also want to know whether the Georgia Aquarium and its partners can properly care for the whales and how they might be used in educational activities.
 
The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act sets rules which NOAA must consider when deciding whether these animals may be imported. NOAA officials told VOA they plan to make a decision on the request by early next year.
 
Recently, beluga whales were in the news for another reason. The journal Current Biology reported that one of the whales made human-like sounds.
 
Researchers had been caring for the whale for years before it died in 1999. Over many hours, they recorded what they say is the whale repeating human speech it had just heard. The researchers say the whale’s natural sounds changed as it heard more humans speaking. They admit that the recording does not sound like human speech. But they say these “inflections” are like those of a human voice.
 
The researchers say the sound is unlike those that whales make naturally, but not “unlike those of the human voice.”
 
Listen for yourself.
 
The researchers believe this is evidence of what they call “spontaneous mimicry of the human voice, presumably a result of vocal learning.” In other words, they suspect the beluga whale was copying the sounds made by humans.
 
Four years after the whale started making the human-like sounds, it stopped. The researchers say the times when the whale most sounded like a human were never recorded.

* “After this report was prepared, South Korea dropped plans to hunt whales for scientific purposes. The South Korean government was required to report any plan for a whale hunt to the International Whaling Commission by December 3rd.  But South Korean officials confirmed on Wednesday (December 5) that the government decided against the idea.  Officials said the country would use non-lethal means to study the animals.  The environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the South Korean decision.”
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
12/10/2012 8:38 AM
It would be true scientific whaling is in fact being continued to protect fishermen's livelihood. But whaling in Japan has shrinked and for sure would extinguish before long because both whale market and the number of succeeding fishermen are also shrinking. I remember I used to eat whale meat during my childhood but I've never had it for about fourty years since then. Now we can eat more delicious food. Whale oil also has been substituted for petroleum products.


by: toshio yashiro from: tokyo japan
12/07/2012 12:46 AM
[B]___________________________________________________________________________________________________
[Composition of whaling industry ]
MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries),
The Institute of Cetacean Research ICR (Institute of Cetacean Research)
The Fisheries Association JFA (Japan Fisheries Association).
*Pro-whaling lobby
[The coastal whaling in Japan has two kinds of permissions.]
1)In small whaling, The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries gives permission to each prefecture.
2) As for a dolphin, each prefecture governor gives permission.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
*pro-whaling lobby
Includes the two ex-presidents Abe Shinzo and Aso Taro and many legislators.
A possibility that the Liberal Democratic Party of " Shinzo Abe "will turn into the governing party is high."Shinzo Abe "comes from Yamaguchi- prefecture and Yamaguchi-prefecture is a huge whaling promotion prefecture.
The present governing party was mistaken in the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster processing, also, their policies are China and the South Korean protection too much. and lost people's trust.
Anyway, A new national election occurs. A near political party new in the future will turn into the governing party.

I am going to send Petition e-mail to the government of USA ,EU, UK to support Australia at the International Court of Justice.

Please tell this fact / "4000-tons stock pile " to the world by your article.
( It will surely be more than it that they say that they announced this stock pile.)

1) Is a 4000-tons stockpile preparation of the third World War?
2) 4000-tons stockpile disclosure is the maximum obstacle factor which Japan convinces for continuation of whaling of the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the government accepted research whaling as commercial whaling themselves from financial difficulties. They also released a 4000-tons stockpile for the first time.

The world should ask Japan about the stock pile and the reason for a stockpile.

This slaughter is unnecessary.

from tokyo japan


by: toshio yashiro from: tokyo japan
12/07/2012 12:44 AM
[A]

"Japanese earthquake recovery money going to whaling "

This budget appropriation of "Japan's Fisheries Agency " seems to be rejected by rebounding from the world.
Therefore, they appeared in the last means.

"Japan plans wider sales of whale meat
TOKYO, Nov. 7 -- Japan's Fisheries Agency plans to sell whale meat directly to the public to raise money for its deficit-ridden research whaling program, officials say. "

"Japan's Fisheries Agency" is equivalent in having accepted as commercial whaling themselves .

Skillful manipulation of information is performed here.
The stock pile is not indicated for a report for a foreigner (The report of Mainichi Newspapers to overseas is a basis report).
The stock pile is indicated in the Japanese report.

It says, They have a 4000-tons stock pile.
"Japan's Fisheries Agency" are releasing a stock pile to the world, and it was afraid for their causing the blame from the world. An official announcement in the world of their huge stock pile is that the unnecessary nature of whaling is shown in the world.

"Infanticide of a whale" is for protecting the fish which man consumes. They tell a lie to the world.
Suppose temporarily that their opinion is right.

However, the world has not entrusted the request of the serious missions to Japan.
Everyone in the world has not made such a request Japan. They have continued "commercial whaling "for " research whaling" by the way of excuse for a long time.
The world knows that it is a reason of only own pocket of "whaling industry ".
Their theory has whaling first.
The reasons for affirming all the whaling are attached later.

japan must be judged by the International Court of Justice.

Japan got relief (was eased ? ) from the world by the amount of capture of a tuna, and import (Washington Convention) of eel fry.
It is the turn that Japan stops whaling.
*A lot of stockpile is a big proof which shows the non-necessity for whaling more to the world.
Or is war really prepared ?
Is these whale meat the stockpiles of emergency, such as war?
Japan prepares for" the third World War "and is continuing whaling ?


by: toshio yashiro from: tokyo japan
12/06/2012 11:28 PM
"Japanese earthquake recovery money going to whaling "

This budget appropriation of "Japan's Fisheries Agency " seems to be rejected by rebounding from the world.
Therefore, they appeared in the last means.

“Japan’s Fisheries Agency” is equivalent in having accepted as commercial whaling themselves .

Skillful manipulation of information is performed here.
The stock pile is not indicated for a report for a foreigner (The report of Mainichi Newspapers to overseas is a basis report).
The stock pile is indicated in the Japanese report.

It says, They have a 4000-tons stock pile.
“Japan’s Fisheries Agency” are releasing a stock pile to the world, and it was afraid for their causing the blame from the world. An official announcement in the world of their huge stock pile is that the unnecessary nature of whaling is shown in the world.

“Infanticide of a whale” is for protecting the fish which man consumes. They tell a lie to the world.
Suppose temporarily that their opinion is right.

However, the world has not entrusted the request of the serious missions to Japan.
Everyone in the world has not made such a request Japan. They have continued "commercial whaling "for " research whaling" by the way of excuse for a long time.
The world knows that it is a reason of only own pocket of “whaling industry “.
Their theory has whaling first.
The reasons for affirming all the whaling are attached later.

japan must be judged by the International Court of Justice.

Japan got relief (was eased ? ) from the world by the amount of capture of a tuna, and import (Washington Convention) of eel fry.
It is the turn that Japan stops whaling.
*A lot of stockpile is a big proof which shows the non-necessity for whaling more to the world.
Or is war really prepared ?
Is these whale meat the stockpiles of emergency, such as war?
Japan prepares for" the third World War "and is continuing whaling ?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________
[Composition of whaling industry ]
MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries),
The Institute of Cetacean Research ICR (Institute of Cetacean Research)
The Fisheries Association JFA (Japan Fisheries Association).
*Pro-whaling lobby
[The coastal whaling in Japan has two kinds of permissions.]
1)In small whaling, The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries gives permission to each prefecture.
2) As for a dolphin, each prefecture governor gives permission.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
*pro-whaling lobby
Includes the two ex-presidents Abe Shinzo and Aso Taro and many legislators.
A possibility that the Liberal Democratic Party of ” Shinzo Abe “will turn into the governing party is high.”Shinzo Abe ”comes from Yamaguchi- prefecture and Yamaguchi-prefecture is a huge whaling promotion prefecture.
The present governing party was mistaken in the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster processing, also, their policies are China and the South Korean protection too much. and lost people’s trust.
Anyway, A new national election occurs. A near political party new in the future will turn into the governing party.

I am going to send Petition e-mail to the government of USA ,EU, UK to support Australia at the International Court of Justice.

Please tell this fact / “4000-tons stock pile “ to the world by your article.
( It will surely be more than it that they say that they announced this stock pile.)


by: toshio yashiro from: tokyo japan
12/05/2012 10:32 PM
The thought of "the animal rights `of of Asia and Africa is very late. Of course, including Japanese people ,it is very greedy.
There is no consciousness in which other animals are other residents of this earth. Other animals are resources fo them.
Therefore, the town "Taiji" of the evil spirit which we can never allow where "Whale watching" and "slaughter " exist together was made. I pointed out this inconsistency to "Wakayama Prefecture ".
"Whale watching" is resources of sightseeing and "slaughter "is food resources. The person in charge answered.


by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
12/05/2012 5:24 PM
THE WHALE POPULATION SHOULD BE PROTECTED IF THAT HELPS TO KEEP OUR ECHO SYSTEM INTACT. ANY EFFORTTHAT SPOIL THE ENVIORNMENT SHOULD BE VIEWED SERIOUSLY AND PROPERLY DEALT WITH. BYE THE BYE, I WILL BE AWAY FROM VOA FROM THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW TILL THE 18 OF THIS MONTH AS AN OFFICIAL TOUR. I AM GOING TO MISS YOU SO MUCH TILL THEN AND I AM SORRY FOR THAT. GOOD BYE.


by: Gayle63 from: Connecticut
12/05/2012 2:31 PM
Leave the whales alone. People have done so much damage to the planet, please at least allow these intelligent, amazing creatures to live their lives.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
12/05/2012 4:47 AM
I'm a bit boring about this kind of disputes. I think concerned people should not insist on their own claims but listen to opponents and seek the way to compromise each other. There are some whaling countries without joinning the IWC. In this point, Korea could be said it is fair being on the platform of the disputes. It appears for me not fruitful to ask dichotomy question, to hunt or to watch. It seems apparent that the reasonable answer is to permit some whalings as long as its resorces are preserved. There is no longer any country which is dealing with large scale commercial whaling. So total ban of whaling with no exception even for the limited hunt of American Indians could be considered as a claim from environmental extremists.


by: Leo from: Colombia
12/05/2012 3:53 AM
I'm against whale hunting 100% instead of trying to make money killing the whales (probably that is the bottom reason) why don't they think of long term profit with tourism, whales attract tourists, let them make money some other way, not killing whales.
Thanks for the report VOA.


by: Manda from: JPN
12/04/2012 4:04 PM
As one of the Japanese people, I am wondering why we need to catch and eat whales against the blames. I think that whales meat does not taste so good and most Japanese have not eat whale meat for long long time. Nobody say they urge to eat whale meat.

Comments page of 2
    Next