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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

7 August 2003

Iceland to Begin Scientific Whaling Despite IWC Scientists' Condemnation


Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today expressed his grave concerns regarding Iceland's announcement that it would expand the number of whales to be caught for commercial profit under the guise of "scientific" whaling.

"Overnight in Reykjavik, the Government of Iceland announced it would shortly begin a program of lethal research on minke whales," Dr Kemp said.

"This is deeply regrettable. It comes barely six weeks after leading whale researchers condemned the proposal and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) passed a resolution calling for Iceland's program to be shelved."

Australian scientists joined a broad range of international experts in issuing a statement during the recent meeting of the IWC's Scientific Committee, which condemned Iceland's proposed programme.

The scientists' statement reads in part:

Iceland is in practice proposing a cull of whales ...

Member governments that promote poorly conceived research whaling programmes place their scientists in the untenable position of having to defend these proposals in order to support the agendas of their governments. In turn, this causes unnecessary conflict between Scientific Committee members ... and undermines the basis by which the IWC manages stocks of whales.

"The Scientific Committee report contains compelling criticisms of existing and proposed scientific whaling. So-called scientific whaling is nothing less than commercial whaling," Dr Kemp said.

"Iceland's proposal to join Japan in so-called "scientific whaling" was both technically deficient and scientifically unwarranted."

The 55th annual meeting of the IWC (Berlin, June 2003) was responding to the proposal from Iceland to take 250 whales per year - of minke, fin and sei species - for "research" purposes.

"Today's announcement that Iceland will begin its program this year, by taking 38 minke whales, shows Iceland is prepared to fly in the face of international scientific opinion," Dr Kemp said.

Minke whales of the North Atlantic are already subject to a commercial hunt by Norway, which takes over 700 animals per year, in defiance of the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

"Iceland's program will place more pressure on these minke whales. Also, should Iceland expand the programme in the direction it has outlined, its whalers will target members of two endangered species. Both fin and sei whales are classified as endangered on the globally-recognised Red List of Threatened Species," Dr Kemp said.

"Scientific whaling is premised on a hollow argument about the need to kill whales in order to study how many fish they have eaten. The sort of questions it claims to be addressing could be answered using non-lethal techniques.

"Australia is a world leader in developing non-lethal research methodologies, such as DNA testing of whale faeces, which has been shown to be a more effective research method, and we remain totally opposed to commercial whaling - including that conducted under the guise of science.

"I had hoped that the opposition of the scientific community to Iceland's proposal, and the IWC's call for the program to be shelved, would convince the Government of Iceland to abandon its plans. Regrettably, this is not the case.

"Australia will stand firm with the anti-whaling majority in the IWC and make joint diplomatic representations in a final attempt to dissuade Iceland from this course of action."

Commonwealth of Australia