Norwegian whaling

Standard Page - 9 January, 2009
Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 as an attempt by the political party in power at the time to gain popularity in northern Norway.

The Ellingsen factory is the largest whale meat and blubber storage facility in Norway.

In order to justify its hunt, Norwegian scientists calculated a population estimate, which was later found to be much higher than the data supported.

The scientific controversy surrounding Norway's population estimates for Minke whales continues today, but even if the populations could be accurately determined, Norway's whale hunt still directly undermines the authority of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Norway - Traditional whale hunters ... since 1930

Since restarting its commercial whaling, Norway has claimed that its Minke whale hunt is small-scale and traditional. In fact, Norway did not begin Minke whaling until 1930. Some of Norway's whaling vessels cross international waters and travel more than a thousand miles to reach their hunting grounds.

The ships act as small factories, flensing whales on board and remaining at sea for weeks at a time. In fact, Norway's whaling fleet is by no means crucial to the survival of Norway's coastal communities, which depend on the state of Norway's fisheries.

Brochures published by the Norwegian government claim that whale meat is sold in Norway where it is a traditional part of the Norwegian diet.

The reality is that there is little market for the meat in Norway - the real goal of Norway's whalers is export to Japan where prices paid for whale meat are several times higher than in Norway.

The Japanese connection

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) currently lists all the great whales on its Appendix I, under which the international trade in whale products is prohibited.

Japan and Norway are both lobbying aggressively, to downlist whales from Appendix I to Appendix II, thereby reopening trade.

In early 2001, the Norwegian government announced that it would allow the export of whale meat and blubber to Japan, even though such trade is prohibited under CITES.

A spokesperson for the whalers public relations arm described the decision as 'the final victory'. Greenpeace has documented tons of frozen blubber, each block carefully wrapped and labelled in Japanese, stored in Norwegian industrial freezers, waiting for export.

A resumption of international trade in whale products would have dire implications. Pirate whalers will have an even greater incentive to hunt whales covertly, as it will become easier for them to smuggle illegal whale meat into Japan.

Even with the current trade ban in place, illegal whale meat from both abundant and endangered species of whales is regularly discovered on sale in Japan.

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