Welfare groups urge tour operators to stop backing whale meat consumption

Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 01:00

THE WHALE and Dolphin Conservation Society and Animal Welfare Institute have issued a joint appeal to tour operators and cruise ship companies taking passengers to Greenland requesting that they refrain from promoting the consumption of whale meat.

This follows an “undercover investigation” last month that found restaurants “deliberately targeting” tourists by placing bowhead and other whale meat on their menus, as well as supermarkets “openly selling endangered fin whale and other whale meats”.

In doing so, Greenland – a Danish overseas territory – was “actively undermining” the International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling by selling whale meat to tourists, when it is only allowed to kill whales to meet the nutritional needs of native inhabitants.

These revelations come on the eve of the annual meeting of the whaling commission, which opens today in Panama, where Denmark is set to ask that it be allowed to kill more whales in future years to meet the subsistence needs of the Inuit population.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Society, the Danes will argue they need to almost double their take of endangered fin whales (from 10 to 19) and increase the number of humpback whales they kill in waters off Greenland without a review for at least six years.

“The Danish government’s claims that Greenland needs to kill more whales for nutritional and cultural needs is laughable,” said society chief executive Chris Butler-Stroud. “This demand for more whale meat is clearly driven by the commercial consumer market.”

He noted Greenland’s Inuit population had risen by only 10 per cent over the past 24 years and the number of licensed subsistence hunters had fallen by nearly half since 1993, yet the request for more whale meat in the same period had increased by 89 per cent.

“We believe that this, together with the findings of our investigation, should result in any request for the killing of even higher numbers of whales by Greenland being rejected and the situation thoroughly reviewed by the International Whaling Commission,” he said.

Earlier in the year, the society revealed that Iceland was openly selling whale meat packaged for export in the departure area at Keflavik airport to travellers who “risked arrest for importing an internationally protected species” if they bought it.