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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK


Porpoises 'under threat'

The EIA hopes to shock world opinion into opposing porpoise hunting

By BBC Environment Correspondent, Robert Pigott

An environmental pressure group has released film of what it says is the largest kill of whales or dolphins in the world.

[ image: Powerful boats are used to chase the porpoises]
Powerful boats are used to chase the porpoises
The Environmental Investigation Agency claims that Japan killed 18,000 Dall's porpoises last year, breaking an international agreement to limit the kill to 10,000.

The group spent a week shadowing the powerful boats used by Japanese fishermen to chase porpoises.

It filmed the killing of porpoises with hand-held harpoons and the landing of their carcasses in northern Japan.

Watch Robert Pigott's report
The EIA, which hopes to shock world opinion into opposing the annual kill of Dall's porpoises, says Japan has been killing an increasing number of them ever since the commercial hunting of whales was outlawed 13 years ago.

"When the International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of large whales in 1986 large companies got involved in the porpoise hunt," said the EIA Chairman Allan Thornton.

[ image: Japanese fish sellers deny selling the meat as whale to increase demand]
Japanese fish sellers deny selling the meat as whale to increase demand
"They are selling it as whale meat to increase demand, and to keep the trade going until the time when whale hunting could resume."

Japanese fish sellers deny that porpoise is being sold as whale. They say consumers would quickly tell the difference.

The Japanese government disputes the claim that it is killing 18,000 porpoises, and putting an important population of Dall's porpoises at risk.

The Deputy Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Itaru Umezu, agrees that 15,000 were caught last year, but says that the quota was only set after careful research.

"We are confident in the results of our scientific research", said Mr Umezu.

[ image: Consumers defend their right to eat the meat]
Consumers defend their right to eat the meat
"We do very rigorous regulation, and on the basis of that impose strict quotas on the safe side of conservation."

The Environmental Investigation Agency is calling on Britain to put pressure on Japan at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in May to reduce the killing of Dall's porpoises.

It has accused Japan of using aid and trade to persuade small countries to vote against further restrictions on whaling by the IWC.

Japan denies the claim, saying it ignores countries' stance on whaling when allocating aid.

Japanese consumers also defend their right to eat porpoise. They would be likely to resist further limits to the catch.

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