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Norway whale hunting season suspended


Norwegian whalers have suspended this year's hunt of minke whales, citing lack of product demand.

According to an Agence France-Presse article, industry officials state that the suspension is due to capacity problems at processing plants.

"The number of whales killed so far is enough to meet the known demand," Willy Godtliebsen, head of sales at the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organization said. "They may resume the hunt later if new buyers turn up."

The environmental group Greenpeace, however, claims that it is proof of a growing disinterest for whale meat among consumers and that the meat is being shunned.

Norway's whaling season, which defies an international ban on commercial whaling, begins in spring and usually runs until fall. With a quota of 885 minke whales, approximately 350 have been harpooned thus far.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Minke whale. Credit: Eric Martin / For The Times

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Comments (6)

Just wanted to continue my post a little bit. Mr. Butler-Stroud, you write: "However, these efforts by Ellingsen seem to have not worked as the Government had hoped".

I have trouble understanding what you are insinuating by this statement. It looks like you are portraying the Norwegian government as a whaling "cheerleader" that is trying to promote whaling in every way possible.
This is definitely not the case. I have worked in Norwegian fish exports for 6 years, however I do not work in this line of business today. For the record, I have not been involved with whale meat at all, as this is an almost negliable industry in this country. The Norwegian government looks at whaling as a small and uninteresting activity, but will allow limited whaling if, and only if, the highly professional marine scientific community gives a green light for it.
For example, I can not remember a single news story on Norwegian television about whaling during the last year.
Small scale whaling has been part of the culture in some areas of northern Norway for centuries, and it is a minor industry today. Smaller than it has ever been while permitted. Norway has implemented moratoriums on hunting several times, and will continue to do so if there are sustainability concerns. I have never seen promotion campaigns for whale meat in Norway. Not in the press, and not in the supermarkets. You may find a couple of half kilo cardboard packets of whale meat in some supermarkets in Norway, but you have to search hard and be lucky to find any.

However, if you put pure emotions or personal convictions into the picture, there is no way to debate the whaling matter on scientific grounds. It's like Brigitte Bardot protesting against seal hunting because the cubs are so incredibly cute. It is understandable, but more emotional than scientific.

The debate becomes as impossible as debating religion or the excistence of God. It boils down to faith and conviction. If Norwegian whaling can be defended scientifically, but you detest it, then it has become an emotional question. And that's fine. We are all shaped by our emotions. My emotions tell me that minke whales are like most other mammals, and can be harvested in a sustainable way.

Many people may look at all whales as something very separate from all other animals, for some reason. But if so, let's be honest about it.

I suppose this comes down to a philosphical question: Is whaling (of any kind) "bad"? I am a Norwegian who has seen the "whaling debate" run in national and international media for a couple of decades. I think that Norway has a common sense approach to this. As long as there is a very sustainable population and an excisting market, it makes sense to have a limited whaling activity (minke whale only). If any of those underlying factors go away, the whaling will stop. Norwegians authorities would never allow whaling if it was a threat to the population of whales in our waters. It is important to realize this. We are not savages. Norway is the richest country in the world, per capita, and has no need to hunt these few hundred whales. We just think that it makes sense to harvest an abundant resource as long as it is sustainable, and not let "Free Willy -shaped" opinions decide this question. Killer whales are not hunted in Norway, and can be observed along our coast right now. We are a very environmentally conscious people, and our own public opinion would quickly "strangle" a government that allowed unsustainable whaling. It is important to remember that in this debate. It may be more important to take a look at how millions of cows and chickens are treated and killed on thousands of industrial farms world-wide to feed the insatiable demand of McDonalds or KFC. That's the elephant in the room. But maybe it is easier to direct people's attention to a few hundred whales. They are cuter, and smart.

Further to 'Andrew' posting, I would draw readers attention to the Norwegian Fisheries press, and in particular, Fiskeribladetfiskaren, which reports on this issue for whaling being 'one of the worst years for over 15 years'

It’s easy for people to call others liars and insult press that they don't like but it does not mean that its not true – just hard to accept.

This was the second year that Norwegian whalers have been unable to meet their 'self-allocated' quota. As Reuters reports from Oslo, 'Svein Ove Haugland, a spokesman for the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organisation states last week, "We have ordered the halt because we have enough whale meat on vessels compared to what the whaling industry needs…".

AFP reports, 'The number of whales killed so far is enough to meet the known demand,' as stated by Willy Godtliebsen, the head of sales at the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organisation.

Of course, those who support Norwegian whaling will seek any excuse to maintain this subsidized industry, but in reality volumes of whale meat landed have declined from a post-moratorium high of 754 tonnes in 1998 to 558 tonnes in 2008. There has also been a significant reduction in the number of whaling boats; from 35 in 2002 to 24 in 2009.

In May 2004, the Norwegian Parliament passed a resolution to considerably increase the number of Minkes hunted each year. This ‘political’ move does not mean that Norway can force people to eat whale meat and in 2005, the Karsten Ellingsen Company launched several new products based on whale meat, foremost among them the “Lofotburger”. The burger, 50% minke whale and 50% pork, has gone on sale in dozens of supermarkets throughout Norway. The company also offered whale ham and pastrami. Ulf Ellingsen, spokesperson for the company, was clear about the rationale behind the whale burger: “We hope that this product hits the nail on the head and that a new generation get their eyes opened up to whale meat.”

However, these efforts by Ellingsen seem to have not worked as the Government had hoped. In March of 2008, Ulf Ellingsen announced that the company was considering cutting out sales of whale meat, as it was making more money from salmon aquaculture than from whaling, and was having difficulties freeing up labor to process the whale products. Yet another whale meat buyer, the Hopen Fiske & Sild company of Vagan, Norway declared bankruptcy in October of 2008.

It would seem that market forces pay little attention to the pursuit of 'sovereign rights'.

Utter nonsense! The Norwegian whalers have paused their hunt due to the financial problems their *buyers* have! It's not about the lack of a market, which is purely domestic and has nothing to do with the rest of Europe.

Greenpeace is making this up! And Chris Butler-Stroud knows nothing about it obviously.

The product is absolutely NOT being shunned by us native Norwegians! We stand by our *sovereign* right to sustainably harvest our marine resources. And our hunt for non-threatened Minke whales is sustainable according to all parties involved including the IWC.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is an organization that constantly seems to repeat slanderous and blatantly UNTRUE legal interpretation of the IWC moratorium.

We are NOT in defiance of the IWC ban because we *legally* objected to the moratorium because it was not supported by the IWC's own scientific committee.

In legal terms Norway is legally fully entitled to continue whaling when we chose to do so.

The L.A. Times is obviously lacking in the legal/research department where other major newspapers at least manage to mention the three categories of commercial whaling: legal objection (Norway), Japan (so-called scientific research) and Aboriginal (Alaska).

The BBC clearly informs their readers of the legal background in a fact box on each page on whaling!


Commercial whaling might have seemed a logical choice when a whale could provide a wide gamut of supplies for a growing industrial nation in th 1800's but times have changed. Petroleum and plastics have supplanted the organic components of the whale as cheaper, more effective and efficient alternatives. Whales as mammals have evolved and adapted to their marine environment without the encumberances of technology and the threats of pollution. So who is to say which species is truly sentient. Unbridled slaughter of these gentle giants of the seas is no longer conscionable action of an enlightened human race.

This is a growing, and for many, a welcome trend for the whalers. Over the last few years we have seen the big Japanese commercial companies throwing in the towel and handing the large scale whaling all over to the government to run (and the taxpayer to pay for) and the one coastal whaling company left is only able to do so because of subsidies and ‘scientific whaling’ contracts - whilst they have had to resort to selling whale meat for pet food to make ends meet.

Norway has had a disastrous year, having to end its hunt because of a lack of demand, and Iceland’s Hvalur and its associated companies are losing fish market share in Europe as I write. And, for the first time the international community is beginning to wake up to the fact that not every claim in the name of an Inuit cause for more whales is as legitimate as another.

The outgoing Chairman of the IWC, the Bush appointee Dr William Hogarth, has argued for keeping this whaling going, but trading it off for concessions on so-called 'scientific whaling'. But what he talks about in terms of compromise is in fact rewarding the years of blackmail through ’scientific’ whaling and whaling under objection as practiced by the whaling interests.

Leadership in such a fora as the IWC does not mean giving into everyone through concessions, - it means deciding what is right for the 21st Century and fighting for those principles. So maybe its time for the current moratorium to go, but only if its replaced by a full ban on commercial whaling once and for all - and maybe its time for the USA to take up that challenge, not quietly but openly and with conviction.

As long as there is a glimmer of hope as cherished and championed by the likes of Dr Hogarth, then the whalers will hang in there for a while longer. Lets just hope that glimmer is fading fast - just as their markets are.


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.