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 user 2006-07-13 at 11:22:00 am Views: 45
  • #16319

    Norway’s whale catch falls short

    Norway’s whaling fleet will catch only half of its quota this season.

    The government set a quota of 1052 minke whales, but so far only 444 have been landed.

    Industry spokesmen predict the final tally for the April to August
    season will be about 500, and say bad weather earlier in the year
    prevented hunting.

    Western environmental groups say the industry is in
    crisis, with stores full of unsold meat and a lack of demand from the
    Norwegian public.

    “Norway has some real headaches this summer,” said Sue Fisher from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

    “It dramatically increased its whaling quota this year to make a political statement, but that is backfiring now.

    “Middlemen can’t sell the meat already caught and have run out of storage space.”

    If you don’t have meat in May it’s not possible to sell the meat you do have in July

    Hermod Larsen

    The government increased its quota to 1052 whales from 797 last year.

    Commercial whaling is banned globally, but Norway lodged a formal
    objection when the moratorium was established 20 years ago and
    continues its commercial hunt, based around the Lofoten Islands in the
    country’s north-west.

    Bad breaks

    Norwegian sources paint a different picture of the reasons for the low
    catch, which has seen parts of the fleet suspend operations in recent

    “It’s been very slow this year, that’s for sure,” said
    Rune Frovik, secretary of the High North Alliance which represents
    whalers, fishermen and sealers in northern countries.

    “One reason is the bad weather – it’s been rainy and
    windy and cold, and this June we had less sunshine than in any June for
    many years,” he told the BBC News website.

    “And then there hasn’t been much capelin along the coast – this is a
    favoured prey for minke, so when that fish is not there the minkes go

    The other factor, he said, is holidays, with many whalers
    and people involved in the processing industry taking several weeks off
    in July and August.

    Hermod Larsen, regional director of the Norwegian Raw
    Fish Organisation for the Lofoten area, agreed that bad weather in May
    and June was a key factor.

    “As the season goes on, the quality of the whalemeat goes down,” he told the BBC News website.

    “From mid-summer on they eat a lot of herring and other fish, they are
    eating and eating and getting fatter and fatter, and the fat is not
    good for the meat.

    “Usually people start eating whale in May, they grill
    it and eat it; but if you don’t have meat in May it’s not possible to
    sell the meat you do have in July.”

    His organisation, which represents processing
    companies, has stopped buying whalemeat. Some whalers process their own
    meat, and according to Mr Frovik, this activity continues.

    “Also, it appears that the three main processing plants
    wish to resume processing and buying whale meat after the holiday, more
    exactly on Monday 7th August,” he said.

    Mr Frovik and Mr Larsen both expect the final catch to be in the region of 500 whales.

    International pressure



    – A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exempt


    – A nation issues unilateral ‘scientific permits’; any IWC member can do this


    – IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food

    Norway is one of three countries to hunt the “great whales”; the others
    are Japan and Iceland, which claim their catches are for “scientific

    In June these pro-whaling nations saw a motion passed at
    the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting calling for
    the eventual resumption of commercial hunting – the first pro-whaling
    resolution in 20 years.

    Concerned by such moves, anti-whaling nations along
    with conservation and animal rights groups are stepping up pressure to
    have all whaling stopped.

    Earlier this year a group of 12 countries sent a letter
    of diplomatic protest to Norway, while a similar letter to Japan was
    supported by 17 nations.

    Communities in Norway, Japan and Iceland accuse these
    countries of trying to impose their own cultural values on societies
    which do not view whales as special creatures.

    But conservation groups say that whaling is
    intrinsically cruel, stocks are too low for hunting to be sustainable,
    and demand for whalemeat is declining.

    The current Norwegian situation, they say, is evidence for their case.