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Challenge to aboriginal subsistence whalinh myth

Embargoed until 1pm on 17 June 2008

Greenland - Blown out of the water
Challenge to the myth of aboriginal subsistence whaling

An undercover investigation conducted by The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has challenged the myth that the whaling in Greenland is solely aboriginal subsistence whaling.

WSPA's New Zealand Programmes Manager, Bridget Vercoe, said the shocking truth was that some of Greenland's aboriginal subsistence whaling was actually commercial business and not just providing food for small traditional whaling communities. The investigation carried out in April found supermarket freezers full of whale products, industrial plants for freezing and drying whale meat, and stock piles of unsold whale meat.

"Our evidence will blow everyone's impressions of Greenland's whaling out of the water; the results have proven that some subsistence whaling is no longer providing food critical to indigenous peoples. We've traced unacceptable animal suffering back to significant commercial profit margins," she said.

Based on the investigation, the WSPA estimates that US$1million profit is being made from at least one quarter of the whales that are meant to be caught for 'aboriginal subsistence' purposes in Greenland. The WSPA believes that Greenland's subsistence whaling has crossed the line into commercial whaling.

The WSPA is releasing its Exploding Myths report - detailing the Greenland Investigation - as Commissioners from across the world meet once again at the International Whaling Commission, in Chile, to discuss how many whales can be killed. During the week Greenland will request permission to kill even more whales, including humpbacks.

"Commercial whaling is banned yet Greenland is very openly doing it and profiting from this inherently cruel practice. Whales simply cannot be killed humanely at sea, which is why the commercial whaling ban must be strengthened, properly enforced, and maintained," said Ms Vercoe.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

* Greenland is responsible for almost half of all whales taken under aboriginal subsistence whaling quotas since the moratorium came into effect in 1986, with total catches of 2,850 minke whales and 273 fin whales (1986 to 2006).
* In 2007, Greenland reported the average time to death for fin whale hunts at 34 minutes and for minke whales at 28 minutes. The maximum time to death for fin whales was reported to be 12 hours and for minke whales six hours.
* One private company, Arctic Green Food, buys about one quarter of the total Greenlandic whale quota for processing and commercial sale each year. Arctic Green Food dries or freezes the meat, making it available in supermarkets all year round.
* Despite Greenland's request for increased quotas to meet demand, WSPA investigators found in excess of 500 boxes (5 tonnes) of whale meat, most packed in mid-2007, in Arctic Green Food's cold storage facility.
* WSPA investigators visited five supermarkets in five different towns. All five supermarkets were found to offer frozen and/or dried whale meat for sale.
* Retail sale value was found to be between 2.5 and 20 times higher than prices paid to whalers. Between 60% and 95% of retail sale price was estimated to be processor and retailer margins.

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