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Last Updated: Wednesday October 18 2006 17:36 GMT

Hotseat: Greenpeace oceans expert

A whale tail

Iceland is about to start commerical whaling again for the first time in 20 years.

Oliver Knowles, an expert on oceans from environmental organisation Greenpeace popped into Newsround to answer some of your questions about whaling and why Iceland is starting up again.

We put the best of your questions (and asked some of our own) to Oliver and below are his answers.

What do you think about Iceland's decision to start whaling again?

Well, Greenpeace is very, very concerned about this indeed. The decision will involve a hunt that will kill up to 30 Minke whales and nine Finn whales each year.

In the case of Finn whales this is particularly distressing because they are critically endangered, which means taking even a very small number of whales could be very serious for the animals.

What are Finn whales like?
Finn whales are enormous and can weigh as much as 120 tonnes and can grow as long as 27m in length. They can weigh up to a massive three tonnes at birth and live for as long as 80 years.

Iceland say there are now so many whales in their waters that they're eating all the fish. Isn't it important to keep a balance?

That sounds like a real excuse to resume the whale hunt. If you want to know why there are no fish left in the oceans you're better off asking questions of the fishing industry itself.

The one good bit of news we have is that there is lots of opposition to this decision, not just among environmental groups like Greenpeace, but in Iceland as well.

There are many people in Iceland who oppose this decision and I hope that in weeks and days to come they'll make their voices clear to the Icelandic government and we'll get a reversal of this decision.

Why do people hunt whales? - Lewis, 11, Salford

That's a difficult question to answer. For some people it's for food - they want to eat the whales. Others claim they want to hunt them for scientific research.

The reality is very few people eat whale now, there is not a market for it. Often it's to do with culture and traditions. There's no excuse for hunting them though, we don't need to eat them. We can get food from loads of other places.

We certainly don't need to do scientific research on them.

We kill animals for food, so how can we tell someone else what to eat? - Pamela, 12, London

The difference is that many whale species are endangered or critically endangered. That means they're in danger of becoming extinct. For many years we've hunted whales, until the ban that is now in place started.

Whale populations around the globe have taken an enormous battering. The danger is by continuing to hunt them we risk removing from the oceans altogether.

I've heard whales attack boats, shouldn't they be killed if they do? - Lisa, 13, Netherlands

There aren't many cases of whales attacking boats. Whales much prefer to be left alone and allowed to get on with their lives. When whales have been aggressive in past, it's when they've been hunted or separated from their young. I think that's probably another good reason to stop hunting them altogether.

Who hunts whales?
Japan are taking whales in the southern ocean and Norway and Iceland, Faroe Islands take an amount each year as well. Icelandic people and Norwegians and Faroese take them from their own waters.


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