Norway launched its annual and still-controversial whaling season over the weekend, setting off a new wave of protests. A coalition of international whale protection organizations sent out the message that they “strongly condemn” the whale hunt, calling it “cruel.”
“Norway is a modern nation but its whaling practices are cruel, irresponsible, unnecessary and frozen in time,” said Jennifer Lonsdale, senior oceans campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency, one of the organizations behind the protest.
“Norway’s reputation is consistently stained by the blood of the sentient and intelligent whales that it kills,” Lonsdale added. She said the country “ignores the important contributions whales make to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems,” also in Norwegian waters.
Whaling remains part of Norway’s national heritage and is supported by most political parties as an important means of tapping maritime resources. The industry is a shadow of its former self, however, with the number of boats taking part and the catch itself just a fraction of what they once were.
Norwegian officials claim the whale population in Norwegian waters is “sustainable,” with as many as 100,000 of the vågehval (minke whales) that are hunted by Norwegians found in the waters where their boats sail. Norway maintains that it “wants to live up to the principles” set by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but still believes that the IWC, “without paying attention to scientific evidence or a committee’s recommendation, it set the quota for “so-called commercial hunting” at zero from the 1985-86 season. Norway expected the IWC to conduct a thorough evaluation of the ban’s effect and consider the need for quotas but “that has not happened.” Norway therefore “reserved itself” against the whaling moratorium and followed the system for setting its own quota. Last year’s was 880 minke whale, and Norway also claims its hunt uses “efficient” methods and respects animal welfare, with more than 80 percent of its whales killed by the first shot or rendered unconscious.
The anti-whaling coalition is not convinced by these arguments and now fears as many as 999 minke whales many be hunted by Norwegian whalers this year, calling it a “self-allocated quota” that’s more than 10 percent higher than in 2016. “In addition, 90 percent of the minke whales hunted by Norway’s whaling industry are females and almost all of them are pregnant, effectively nearly doubling the actual death toll and seriously impacting future generations of the species,” stated the coalition.
The Washington DC-based group is made up of the Environmental Investigation Agency, the Animal Welfare Institute and OceanCare. They’re especially upset because Norway’s Fisheries Minster Per Sandberg of the Progress Party, who comes from Northern Norway where whaling is a tradition, has indicated he would like to see the quota doubled in the future.
“It is the height of biological recklessness for Norway to set whaling quotas that the world’s leading cetacian scientists have not declared to be sustainable,” state Nicolas Entrup, a consultant to OceanCare. “Falso information does not become true, no matter how often whaling advocates repeat it.”
He and his fellow anti-whaling activists stress that most importantly, in their opinion, whaling is “no longer necessary. They maintain that an international ban on whaling that Norway has defied since 1993 “must be enforced.”
Sandra Altherr, a biologist at Pro Wildlife, also that Norway, which has been developing various whale products to offset the decline in demand for whale meat, oil and blubber, “is hiding behind its objections and reservations to decisions agreed to in international treaties, by continuing to peddle its whale products internationally.”
Altherr noted that the EU “urgently and strongly” opposes whaling in European waters and called for Norway to “comply with its obligations under these treaties and embrace the fact that whales are worth far more alive than dead.”