Maori fisheries trust maintains indigenous whaling support

A Maori fisheries trust has no plans to pull its support of whaling for indigenous people, and supported scientific research by the Japanese to determine whale numbers.

Te Ohu Kaimoana chief executive Peter Douglas told the Otago Daily Times the trust, which allocates fishery assets to 50 iwi across the country, had always supported the traditional right of indigenous people to hunt whales, and that support was unlikely to change.

"It is important we make our minds up and be well informed," he said.

The issue of whether to continue supporting the right of indigenous people would be discussed by the various iwi trust members again this year, he said.

Te Ohu Kaimoana representatives, including Mr Douglas and present chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, attended the 61st meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Portugal last year.

While the Government was opposed to whaling, Te Ohu Kaimoana never went out to "embarrass the New Zealand Government" with its support of indigenous whaling, and maintained good dialogue with its delegates.

Mr Douglas said whaling was an emotive topic for many countries, but many of those in opposition had been involved with the industry in the past, and now wanted to limit those who traditionally hunted the mammals.

The Japanese were not hunting whales illegally in the Southern Ocean and "were following all the rules".

"They are doing what they have to do."

Mr Douglas said if Japanese research showed the number of whales could support a sustainable fishery, "then that is what we should be discussing".

"If they can't, then that is wrong."

In regard to Te Ohu Kaimoana, the trust was not "interested in whaling", but would be interested in taking meat from stranded beached whales unable to be saved.

The number of beached whales in New Zealand was similar in numbers to what Japan was permitted to take each year, he said.

"We are not, at the moment, interested in whaling."

A Maori Party spokesman said the party had no policy on whaling.

Whales and New Zealand
- All whales within New Zealand's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.

- The New Zealand Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission is Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister, who took up the appointment in 2003.

- New Zealand is a supporter of the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling which became effective in 1986.

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