Gillard condemns whaling move

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has condemned South Korea's decision to resume whaling for scientific purposes, saying there is "no excuse" for the move.

Australia's politicians may be incapable of finding common ground on issues like asylum-seeker policy, but they were united on Thursday in voicing their contempt for South Korea's decision.

Ms Gillard confirmed she would instruct Australia's ambassador in Korea to raise the matter "at the highest levels" of government.

"I am very disappointed by this announcement by South Korea. We are completely opposed to whaling; there's no excuse for scientific whaling," Ms Gillard said.

South Korea announced its intention to join Japan in utilising a loophole in the International Whaling Commission Convention, which allows for lethal research on whales.

The whale meat is used for consumption after the research.

>>See a PDF of South Korea's statement to the International Whaling Commission

Dr Joon-Suk Kang, the Republic of Korea's head delegate at the IWC meeting Panama, said the country's whaling history dated back to "prehistoric times".

"Whale meat is still part of a culinary tradition of some of Korea's local areas such as Ulsan," he said.

He said South Korea had acted in "good faith" in complying with the IWC's whaling moratorium in the Korean peninsula since 1986.

"At the time, the Korean government had to enforce the whalers to scrap all the whaling vessels completely, promising that they would be able to resume whaling upon the recovery of the resources," he said.

"With this, the Ulsan community has long been waiting for the IWC to lift the ban for more than a quarter of a century."

Dr Joon-Suk Kang said "unnecessary political arguments" had led to delays in the IWC reviewing the effects of the moratorium.

He said the minke whale population in the north Pacific had "recovered considerably to the level maintained before the moratorium".

"As a result, fishermen in this area are consistently calling for limited whaling," he said.

"This is because they are experiencing disturbances in their fishing activities due to frequent occurrences of cetaceans in their fishing grounds and an increasing number of minke whales are eating away large amount of fish stocks which should be consumed by human beings."

He said the scientific whaling program would allow for accurate analysis of the whales' eating habits and was necessary to complement the non-lethal sighting program and encourage the IWC to support their plans.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Coalition had consistently been opposed to whaling.

"We would respectfully say to the South Koreans, 'don't do it," Mr Abbott said.

The Greens said Australia needed to take a stronger role in stamping out scientific whaling.

Topics:  japan south korea whaling

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