Getting to know the consumer: Toward mitigation of illegal whale meat consumption in South Korea

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Marine Policy, ISSN: 0308-597X, Vol: 89, Page: 116-123

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Tatar, Bradley; Jung, Changkuk
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Environmental Science; Economics, Econometrics and Finance; Social Sciences; Bycatch; Culture; Consumption; Eco-label; Korea; Whaling
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In the Republic of Korea, anthropogenic mortalities of whales are connected to a high demand for whale meat, which stimulates illegal whaling. Demand in Korea is subnational and localized to the southeast coast, especially the city of Ulsan where policies have encouraged the growth in the number of whale meat specialty restaurants. Korean policy permits the sale of cetacean bycatch for human consumption, but requires investigation of all cetacean mortalities and certification of legitimate bycatch. Based on the idea that consumer demand is the driver of illegal whaling, the beliefs that inform consumer behavior were identified by administering a survey questionnaire to patrons of the Ulsan Whale Festival in 2013. Respondents can be grouped into three types, frequent consumers, occasional consumers and non-consumers of whale meat. The survey establishes the connection between frequent consumers and a pro-whaling political stance, but the occasional consumers were affiliated with both the pro-whaling and the anti-whaling norms. The influence of conflicting norms on the consumer indicates a position that takes advantage of the ambiguity caused by the anti-whaling policy at the national level in Korea, and the pro-whaling policy of Ulsan's municipal government. This ambiguity can be resolved under the current Korean policy which requires certification of bycatch, if a verification and monitoring system is instituted to prevent retail outlets from selling products sourced in illegal whaling.