Whale of an error

Published: Monday 15 May 1995

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)A GIANT question mark casts a shadow over Norway's whale census, Recent revelations in a confidential document from the Norwegian Computing Centre and the University of Oslo disclose errors in the software used to estimate the North Atlantic minke whale population. Norway is in favour of a resumption of whale killing. The erroneous figures were used in 1993 to justify the country's defiance of an international ban on whale culling imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Similar inaccuracies have also been detected in Norway's mathematical calculations which form the basis of the software program. A damning indictment comes from Justin Cook, a member of the iwc's scientific committee, who says that when he tried to reproduce Norway's minke whale population estimates, he got a lower figure 6f 53,000 whales compared with the official figure of 86,700. "The effect of reduced, population estimates would be to reduce the possible catching levels," he says.

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