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Worldwide Fund for Nature report finds that scientific whaling is unnecessary.

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Tuesday 14 June 2005

Worldwide Fund for Nature report finds that scientific whaling is unnecessary


PETER CAVE: With less than a week before the International Whaling Commi ssion meets, a new global report says that whales don't need to be slaughtered for science.  


Commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, it denounces Japan's so called scientific whaling, describing it as "outdated and unnecessary".  


Instead they argue that DNA and new biopsy darts are far more accurate in assessing the marine mammal's ecology, breeding habits and genetic make up.  


Environment Reporter Sarah Clarke reports.  


SARAH CLARKE: Every year Japan kills up to 500 minke whales for so-called scientific research. This year it announced plans to double that and include humpbacks.  


The justification for the kill, it argues, is to understand the genetic make-up and breeding habits of this massive mammal.  


But that argument is widely disputed, and today a global report declares it "misleading, spurious and invalid". 


Dr Ray Nias is an ecologist with the Worldwide Fund for Nature and he helped compile the report. 


RAY NIAS: The report that we produced shows unequivocally that the Japanese scientific whaling is simply a smokescreen for ongoing commercial whaling. Their scientific research adds nothing to the debate. It's either irrelevant or ineffective. There are much better methods available.  


SARAH CLARKE: Japan, however, argues to determine the whale's age, scientists need the whale's ear plugs and to work out its sex, they need its ovaries.  


These days, scientists say there's far more effective non-lethal alternatives.  


Dr Ray Nias again.  


RAY NIAS: You can find out quite a bit of information about a whale from a small piece of tissue sample. Looking at the genetics, you can look at the, obviously the age, sex and reproductive state of the whale, but more importantly, you can look at the population structure and make estimates about their abundance.  


SARAH CLARKE: Japan's rejected the report's findings, claiming it's a standard allegation that ignores real science and is aimed at misinforming the public.  


But the report's release is clearly timed to coincide with next week's International Whaling Commission meeting in South Korea, where Japan will push to overturn a moratorium on commercial whaling.  


While it may not be successful, Australia's concerned Japan will push to introduce secret ballots - a move Environment Minister Ian Campbell says would undermine the accountability of the Commission, and eventually help in Japan's pro-whaling cause.  


IAN CAMPBELL: Their goal is to go out and destroy more whales with grenades, destroy more whales, blowing them up. They want to go from the hundreds that are taken now, to thousands and we're trying to stop them, and they figure that secret ballots is a way to try to make that easier.  


Are they going to work for conservation, are they going to work for the future of the world's environment or are they going to quietly, behind closed doors in a secret ballot, vote to explode, put more explosives inside these innocent whales?  


PETER CAVE: Environment Minister Ian Campbell ending that report from Sarah Clarke.