Accepted Paper:

The defense of bycatch: culture and politics in the South Korean responses to the IWC moratorium on whaling  


Bradley Tatar (UNIST [Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology])

Paper short abstract:

Based on field research in the city of Ulsan in South Korea, I critically examine the policy moves taken by the government of S. Korea to control the whale meat markets at the same time that local residents resist and respond to the IWC moratorium.

Paper long abstract:

Describing the situation of Ulsan, South Korea, I argue that the local pro-whaling campaign and the local retail trade in whale meat are examples of cultural resistance to the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Recent policy moves taken by the government of S. Korea are described here as efforts to control the whale meat markets and bring S. Korea into line with the international moratorium on commercial whaling. In Ulsan, the locally prevailing ways of thinking about whales and ecology are not ancient and traditional, but are reactions against the moratorium which is deeply resented by local citizens. Local ideas are enacted in the prominent social practice of eating meat from cetacean bycatch (the accidental death of a cetacean by entanglement in a net used for catching fish). Providing information from interviews and from our observation of city-sponsored public events intended to promote whale meat consumption, I examine the local stakeholders' cultural models. Drawing a contrast between the local models and the prevailing ideas in the scientific debates about whaling at the international level, I argue that in Ulsan the scientific ideas which justify whale protection policies do not have a high degree of social acceptance. In order to implement whale protection policies in Korea, it is necessary to design the policy based upon local ideas about whales and bycatch.

Panel P003
Anthropology of whaling issues: the present and future of whaling cultures (NME panel)