Whaling woes look set to continue

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Norway normally champions international cooperation and adherence to international treaties, but not when it comes to whaling. It’s considered part of the national culture, and a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Morocco this week likely won’t resolve differences or make Norway’s annual whale hunt any more appetizing on the world scene.

WHALE FOR SALE: Norwegians selling whale meat, prepared in a variety of ways, at a recent seafood festival on Oslo's waterfront. PHOTO: Views and News

Whaling opponents have viewed Norway, Iceland and Japan as renegades since they first defied the IWC’s ban on whaling back in the early 1990s. Norway has refused to go along with it, and officially “reserved itself” from the ban.

Even though the market for whale meat and whale oil has declined considerably in recent years, many Norwegians feel it’s their right to continue the hunt. This year’s quota was raised by 45 percent, to 1,286 whales.

Meanwhile, for the past two years, negotiations have been going on aimed at striking a compromise on the commercial whale hunt between the IWC, Iceland and Norway (Japan claims its own whale hunt is carried out for “research,” not commercial, purposes). A compromise reportedly would allow limited hunting under international control for 10 years, at which point a new agreement would be negotiated.

But newspaper Aftenposten reported recently that when word got out that such a compromise was in the works, the anti-whaling lobbies objected mightily  and demanded limits and an enforceable ban in 10 years. Animal rights groups, including those in Norway, objected to the talks going on behind “closed doors,” also this week in Morocco. Norway’s pro-whaling lobby, meanwhile, found potential limits on the hunt unacceptable.

“We’re negotiating in overtime, and the outlook isn’t bright,” Norway’s whaling commissioner and delegate to the IWC meeting, Karsten Klepsvik, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday. He predicts a breakdown in the compromise talks.

That means Norway’s and Iceland’s whaling is likely to continue as it does now, despised by many and leaving Norway with bad PR and in an awkward position given its usual advocacy of international cooperation. The pro-whalers don’t seem to care, calling the IWC meeting in Agadir this week “stillborn” from the start.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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