Norway sets highest whale quota since 1986 moratorium

The Norwegian whaling season opened this week with the fleet of 36 boats set to hunt a 'self awarded' quota of 753 minke whales, the highest number since the international moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986.

Norway resumed commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium in 1993 and since then has killed a total of 2,238 minkes in the Barents Sea, Norwegian Sea and North Sea. Norway’s whaling for minkes is a part-time occupation of fishermen and started in the 1930s. Technically the whaling is permitted since Norway lodged a formal objection to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) moratorium in 1982.

This takes place just one week after the Japanese fleet returned with 389 minke whales, which were killed in the Southern Ocean whale Sanctuary. Japan uses the other loophole in the moratorium – that it does not cover whaling for scientific purposes. However, Japan’s whale meet is sold commercially and although some research into whaling is conducted, the IWC considers it abstract and unnecessary, Cassandra Phillips, WWF’s Co-ordinator for Whales, told edie.

“Norway’s whaling may be allowed by the letter of the law, but it is certainly flouting the wishes of the International Whaling Commission” said Phillips. “The Commission has passed resolutions every year urging Norway to stop this whaling immediately, but they are routinely rebuffed”.

Though Norway has again increased its self-allocated quota of whales, mountains of unmarketable whale blubber are piling up in the country. The ‘blubber mountain’ is set to rise to over 800 tonnes by the end of this season in spite of government subsidies to the traders and grants for dumping blubber. In addition, frozen whale meat from last year’s catch is still available in Norwegian supermarkets, says WWF. Export of whale meat and blubber to markets such as Iceland and Japan is currently forbidden, but Norway is pushing for the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) to allow international trade in whale meat.

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