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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.