In defiance of a global moratorium on commercial whaling, Norway has again issued an annual kill quota of 1,278 minke whales for the 2021 whaling season.
On February 19th, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, announced the quota, which remains unchanged from last year. Ingebrigtsen said he hopes the “upward trend in demand for whale meat will continue.”
Echoing Ingebrigtsen’s sentiment, the whaling industry claims that demand for whale meat has improved, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Norway has seen a continuous drop in domestic sales of whale meat in recent years. A survey commissioned by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and others found that only 4 percent of Norwegians polled admitted to eating whale meat “often,” while two-thirds either have never eaten it or only did so “a long time ago.”
Norway’s 2020 whaling season ran from April 1 to September 30. Slightly more than 500 whales were killed, compared to 429 in 2019. This is the highest total since 2016, when nearly 600 whales were killed. Sixteen whaling vessels requested a permit to hunt whales last year, but only 13 participated.
Three whaling vessels were responsible for nearly two-thirds of the whales killed in 2020: the Kato (138 whales), the Reinebuen (102), and the Fiskebank1 (77). As in recent years, the vast majority of the minkes were killed in the Barents Sea (242) and off the coasts of Troms and Finnmark (176).
Last spring, the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate relaxed a number of whaling regulations to encourage additional vessels to engage in whaling. AWI joined with a number of other organizations in contesting the agency’s proposal — to no avail. The government also permitted whalers to forego qualifying tests for rifle shooting.
“Allowing whalers to skip these necessary tests is unacceptable, and could have serious repercussions for animal welfare,” said Kate O’Connell, AWI’s marine animal consultant. “Each year, dozens of whales who are shot by grenade-tipped harpoons do not die instantly; they must be shot by rifles to end their suffering.”
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, yet Norway formally objected and resumed commercial whaling 11 years later. Since that time, the country has killed more than 14,000 minke whales.
In December, the Vestvågøy Fishing Association requested that the Norwegian government support the whaling industry in order to “make it more attractive to catch whales,” including offering whalers an increased cod quota.
Featured image: a minke whale. Norway has issued an annual kill quota of 1,278 minke whales for 2021. Image credit Len2040, CC BY-SA 2.0.