Norway and whaling

Background - 20 March, 2014
The decision to re-start commercial whaling in Norway twenty years ago was all about politics. It was an attempt by the party in power to gain favour with voters in the north of the country at the expense of the whales and international agreements.

Norway's whale undermines the authority of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

When the IWC agreed a moratorium on commercial whaling Norway registered an objection so they would be able to re-start their hunt, but although the quota for minke whales has been increased many times  since then, it has only  been met Once and last year the catch was les than half the quote.

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.

It is claimed that the whaling industry keeps coastal communities alive in Norway, but this is not the case. Fishing is by far the greatest factor in maintaining the lifeblood of coastal towns. Whaling is a dying industry in Norway. Brochures published by the Norwegian government claim that whale meat is sold in Norway, where it is a traditional part of the Norwegian diet. But there is little appetite for whale meat in most of the country and the government has to sponsor publicity campaigns aimed at increasing consumption. Few people want to work in the industry, and few people want to eat the meat.

Norway used to export about 30% of its catch to Japan but that ended in the 1980s. Now efforts are being made to restart the trade with the first shipments leaving Japan in January 2014, despite the fact that, due to decreased demand, Japan isn’t even able to off-load its own whale meat stocks from Southern Ocean and North Pacific hunts.

Not only are whale meat stocks in Japan overloaded from their own hunts, but Japan will also not accept Norwegian whale blubber because of pollution concerns. Some whales caught in high arctic latitudes are severely contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides, which are carried on air currents and then deposited in the cold arctic waters. Some whales have been so contaminated that their meat was classified as toxic waste.