Letter: Norway's decision on whaling criticised

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Sir: Peter Taylor reports the unattributed views of 'some scientists' within Britain's Sea Mammal Research Unit that minke whales may be preventing the blue whale population from recovering (10 May).

It has recently been suggested - both inside and outside the International Whaling Commission - that minke whales, taking advantage of the extra food made available by their near extermination of the blue whale, have increased in number. However, many scientists find the argument totally without substance. They point out that although minke whales are numerous they are also much smaller than blue whales. In terms of total weight of whales (a better indication of their food needs than numbers of whales), there is now less than 10 per cent total biomass (weight) of whales remaining in the Southern Ocean than there was at the turn of the century. It is hardly plausible then, that food for whales can be in short supply.

A cynic might argue that Japan is encouraging the view that minke whales need to be culled to save the last few hundred blue whales in the Southern Ocean - and that in these days of uncertain funding 'some scientists' may be hedging their bets. Whales are under enormous threats from the damage done to their environment and from hunting them to near extinction. Spurious debate about competition between whales themselves is nonsense.

Yours sincerely,

VASILLI PAPASTAVROU (International Fund for Animal Welfare), CHRIS STROUD (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society), ANDY OTTAWAY (Greenpeace), JAMES MARTIN JONES (Wordwide Fund For Nature), HELEN McLACHLAN (RSPCA)

Kyoto, Japan

13 May