, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 757-768
Date: 19 Oct 2011

Cetacean By-Catch in the Korean Peninsula—by Chance or by Design?

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Abstract

Whaling remains one of the most contentious issues in global conservation. In South Korea, where commercial and subsistence whaling are both illegal, domestic sales of cetacean products such as skin, blubber and red meat are allowed if they are accidently caught. However, environmental groups have claimed that the high price of meat may be acting as an incentive for illegal hunting and ‘deliberate by-catch’ where whales are intentionally killed or left to die by fishermen when they become trapped in their nets. In this paper we investigate the issue of deliberate by-catch and illegal hunting of the protected Minke J-stock population in Korean waters using grounded theory, an approach that allows theories and understanding to emerge from the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data. Our research suggests that deliberate by-catch is almost certainly taking place but that illegal hunting and/or illegal importation from Japan may be far more significant sources of Minke whale meat. We discuss possible measures to reduce incentives for deliberate by-catch and illegal hunting such as the introduction of mandatory reporting of quantities supplied and consumed in restaurants and a tax on meat sales at auction. More generally, our research illustrates how the analysis of price movements can shed light on the scale of illegal wildlife trade and how a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies can provide understanding of a complex, multifaceted conservation issue.