Like most Kiwis I am instinctively in the anti-whaling camp, but I sometimes wonder if I should be. How much of NZ’s position is based on science not emotion?

Let me make it clear from the beginning that I have little sympathy for Japan. Their killing of 300 whales a year for scientific testing is a farce (unless scientific testing now includes taste testing) and their use of their foreign aid budget to garner support comes close to outright bribery. Not that they are alone in this – US foreign aid increases massively to countries on the UN security council, but this is especially blatant when Togo turns up to the IWC with a brown paper bag full of US currency, registering to vote.

However it concerns me that opposition to whaling may more be on the “cuteness” factor than pure science. Now I am a victim of the cuteness factor as much as anyone. Hit a possum with a shovel and I buy you a beer, do the same to a cat and I’ll hit you with the shovel.

Likewise when it comes to the sea, we are all aghast at damage to seals, dolphins and whales because they are so cute or majestic. But who loses sleep over trout or jellyfish? Would the number of whales alive today be considered sustainable if they were squids?

To what extent are some lobby groups opposed to any and all commercial fishing, and do they just use “cute” sea life to undermine all commercial fishing?

On balance I am still in the anti-whaling camp, but I suspect the merits of the Japanese case don’t get the consideration they should because of a backlash against their tactics.

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