Whalers report best season in years

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Norway’s controversial whale hunters have reported what they claim to be the best season in many years, with 686 whales harpooned so far. That’s nearly half the quota of 1,286 whales set by Norwegian officials.

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

Norwegians are harpooning more whales this year than they have for a long time. PHOTO: IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare

“We have never hunted as well as we have this year,” Remi Unstad, skipper and shooter on board the boat Unstad Junior, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

“We’ve been lucky both with the weather and with access to whales,” Unstad said. “So we’re really satisfied. This season has been fantastic, and the best in many years.”

Some say it’s the best since Norway controversially resumed its whale hunt in 1993. A total of 23 boats have taken part in the hunt this season, which began on April 1 and runs through August. The crew of four on Unstad’s boat from Vestvågøy in Nordland County has caught 56 whales so far and delivered 75 tons of whale meat.

Last year they caught just 30 whales and delivered 45 tons during the entire season. They linked this year’s larger numbers to their ability to sail out as soon as the season started. Last year they didn’t begin until June.

“We started really early in April with a trip to eastern Finnmark with three to four other boats,” Unstad told NRK. “After that we went to Bjørnøya and to Spitsbergen. We’ll also take a trip along the coast here in August to see if we can get some more before we knock off for the year.”

Demand for whale meat has fallen in Norway in recent years and export potential is limited, but gourmet restaurants and speciality stores are stocking and offering more prime cuts. Brita Rasmussen of the seafood trade association Norges Råfisklag in Svolvær on Lofoten predicted this year’s hunt will result in more than 700 whales. “We have more whale boats active this year than last year,” Rasmussen told NRK.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund