Whales adorn central station

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It may seem ironic in a country that hunts whales, but the huge, graceful creatures of the sea are now being used to decorate Norway’s largest train station, and the exhibit is backed by animal protection groups.

A life-size whale portrait now hangs outside the main entrance to Oslo's central train station. PHOTO: Views and News

Called “Eye to Eye,” the life-size photographic portraits of whales are said to be the largest in the world. They’re the products of American photographer Bryant Austin, reportedly the only photographer in the world to accept the challenge of getting in the water with whales to mount an exhibition.

“Being eye to eye with a curious whale is a rare and quite special experience,” Austin told news bureau NTB. “Meeting their eye is a moment that exceeds all words, and can only be communicated visually.”

Austin’s exhibition, mounted outside the entrances to Oslo’s Central Station (Oslo S), is backed by animal protection group Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge, animal rights group NOAH and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

It will run through April, traditionally the month when Norway begins its own controversial whale hunt. Norway has defied an international ban on whaling since 1993, arguing that whaling is part of the national heritage and that the whales it hunts aren’t endangered species.

The government sets hunting quotas every year, generally between 300 and 700 whales, and the whaling season runs through the summer even though demand for whale meat has declined greatly in recent years.

Watering down the ban
Japan and Iceland have also defied the international ban, which reportedly may be watered down this summer. British newspaper The Independent reported this week that the moratorium on commercial whaling, which it called “one of the environmental movement’s greatest acheivements,” may be “swept away” at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Morocco in June.

The Independent reported that a new international deal is being negotiated “behind closed doors” that would “legitimize” the whaling activities of Norway, Iceland and Japan and allow commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary set up by the IWC in 1994.

Norway’s defiance of the ban has been troublesome, if not hypocritical, for a country that otherwise promotes international cooperation and lashes out at other countries that defy international treaties. Whaling has long been a sensitive point in Norway, though, and a series of Norwegian governments have gone along with defying the ban in deference to fishing and whaling interests in outlying and economically hard-pressed areas of the country.

The whale hunt itself, though, has been in decline, with much fewer boats participating in recent years.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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