There are only three countries in the world which deal in commercial whaling, and Norway has recently come under fire from animal rights watchdogs for supposedly killing more whales than Iceland and Japan. Remarkably, the international criticism came amid the Norwegian whalers’ frustration with low quotas.
Norway is now the world leader as regards whaling, actually killing more whales than Iceland and Japan combined over the past two years, a recently released report shows. The joint report by the Animal Welfare Institute, OceanCare and Pro-Wildlife accused Norway of having methodically improved market conditions for Norwegian whalers by gradually weakening whaling rules.
Since 1993, Norway has shot nearly 12,000 minke whales, the report said. The death toll from the last two years was higher than that of Iceland and Japan combined. Last year, Norway exported 96 tons of whale meat at a net value of around 7 million kroner (roughly 900,000 dollars) to Japan and Iceland. Virtually all countries prohibit the import of whale meat.
“As one of the world’s most modern and prosperous countries, Norway’s whaling industry is an anachronism. Slaughtering whales for eating and trading has no place in Norway and serves only to mar the country’s international reputation,” ProWildlife biologist Sandra Altherr said as quoted by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.
The report, titled “Frozen in Time: How Modern Norway Clings To Its Whaling Past,” also exposed how Norway circumvents the ban on commercial whaling, earlier imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), through transit through European ports on their way to Japan, which is a sort of lifeline for the Norwegian whaling industry.
According to the report, the Norwegian government financially supports projects that use products derived from whales, such as dietary supplements and cosmetics. The report singled out the Norwegian company Myklebust Hvalprodukter, which in 2015 announced production of a new skin cream based on whale oil.
When compared to the other two countries engaged in commercial whaling, Norway stands out negatively due to a lack of scrutiny in its domestic industry, the report pointed out. The report concluded that the IWC and the international community should “compel Norway to cease commercial whaling and trade in whale products.”
Undersecretary Ronny Berg of Norway’s Fisheries Ministry rejected the criticism, citing a minke whale population of over 100,000 species in the areas where Norwegian whalers operate. Berg also denied that international pressure would be able to stop Norwegian whaling.
Industrial whaling reached its peak in the 1930s, when up to 50,000 whales were killed annually. In 1986, the (IWC) banned commercial whaling in order to increase the dwindling whale stock. At present, whaling remains subject to intense debate. Pro-whaling countries, above all Japan, Norway, and Iceland, wish to lift the ban on certain whale stocks for hunting.
At present, small-scale whaling on a strict quota basis is performed by indigenous people of Canada, Greenland, Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula, as well as Iceland and Faroe Islands as part of the traditional culture. According to the IWC, Norway and Iceland are the only countries to implement commercial whaling, whereas Japan continues whaling on a purported scientific basis, which by many is considered a cover-up for commercial whaling.