Whaling protests die down

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After years of being on the defensive, Norwegian officials reportedly have begun to relax a bit after a marked decline in international protests over their controversial whaling activity. Now the Foreign Ministry even seems ready to hand over responsibility for whaling to the Fisheries Ministry.

The Norwegians don't think their whaling is as controversial as it used to be. PHOTO: IFAW - International Fund for Animal Welfare

“We have noticed that there’s more calm around the whaling issue,” Norwegian diplomat and Arctic adviser Karsten Klepsvik of the Foreign Ministry told newspaper Aftenposten this week. “This has been a gradual development over several years.”

He said he and his colleagues have had “an ongoing evaluation” of when they could relinquish control over whaling and transfer responsibility for the whaling issue to the ministry where it belongs in a professional sense, Fisheries. “We now think the time is ripe,” Klepsvik told Aftenposten.

Several countries including the US protested loudly when the Labour Party government led by the otherwise environmentally oriented Gro Harlem Brundtland decided to revive Norway’s whale hunt in 1993. Her decision to relaunch whaling came just a few years after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) had placed a moratorium on all commercial whale hunting.

The Norwegians’ decision to resume whaling inflamed Greenpeace, other “Save the Whales” activists and even prompted then US-President Bill Clinton to suggest sanctions against Norway. Aftenposten recalled how many celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Brigitte Bardot called Norwegians “barbarians” for insisting on killing whales.

The Norwegians, citing a long tradition of whaling, felt it was their inherent right to hunt whales and many believe it still is, despite a huge decline in the markets for both whale meat, oil and blubber.

Industry a shadow of its former self
Now the Norwegians seem emboldened and encouraged by a lack of indications that whaling protests will churn up once again. Klepsvik said the Foreign Ministry will continue to monitor whaling closely, but he said he sees no signs that anti-whaling activists will launch new protests.

It’s unclear why the protests died down, but one former US ambassador in Oslo wrote in a report revealed by WikiLeaks that most of the anti-whaling activists are targeting Japan’s so-called “scientific” hunt. Norwegian whalers, it’s believed, are no longer fighting against the activists but rather the falling demand for their products. Whaling now seems simply unprofitable.

Klepsvik chooses to believe that Norway’s arguments that its whaling is sustainable have finally been heard. This year’s hunt runs through the summer with a quota of 1,286 whales, but whaling is no longer a big industry despite all the attention and support it gets from the government. Only around 30 boats are taking part, with their catch valued at around NOK 28 million, a tiny fraction of the salmon industry’s value.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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