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That's the common conclusion of three reports presented by leading researchers and conservation organisations – including WWF – to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the international organisation responsible for whale conservation and whaling management.

The reports debunk claims that whales are responsible for a decline in fish stocks – an argument given by whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland, and one used to bolster support for whaling, particularly from developing nations.

"It is not the whales, it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries," said fisheries biologist Dr Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, and co-author of one of the reports.

"Making whales into scapegoats serves only to benefit wealthy whaling nations while harming developing nations by distracting any debate on the real causes of the declines of their fisheries."

Who's eating all the fish?
Dr Pauly's report, Who's eating all the fish? The food security rationale for culling cetaceans, examines the final destination of catches of coastal fisheries in the South Pacific, Caribbean and west Africa. It shows that less than half the catch goes to domestic markets. The majority supplies markets of affluent countries in the European Union, Japan, North America and, increasingly, China. "One can speak of fish migrating from the more needy to the less needy," states the report.

"Dr Pauly's findings should refute, once and for all, the misconception that whales are eating all the fish and need to be killed to protect the world's fisheries," said Patricia Forkan, president of Humane Society International, which supports the report's findings.

Great whales aren't the problem
A second report, which analyses the interaction between whales and commercial fisheries in north-west Africa, establishes that there is no real competition between local or foreign fisheries and great whales.

Great whales spend only a few months in the area during their vast seasonal migrations. They eat relatively little while breeding and tend to consume fundamentally different types of food resources than marine species targeted by both local and foreign fisheries. Even if we were to assume great whales are not breeding in the area and eat species important to the fishing industry, the report still concludes that great whales are not a significant source of competition to fishing.

Focus on unsustainable fishing
The third report, funded by WWF, reviews scientific literature from Japan and Norway – two countries which strongly promote the idea that whales pose problems for fisheries. It found that "where good data is available, there is no evidence to support the contention that whale predation presents an ecological issue for fisheries".

Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of Species at WWF International, said: "These three reports provide yet more conclusive evidence that great whales are not responsible for the degraded state of the world's fisheries. It is now time for governments to focus on the real reason for fisheries decline – unsustainable fishing operations."