Norway Killing Whales Again

Norway whalers are hunting again – and has been doing so for over a week now, with the highest (self-appointed) coastal catch allowance since the country’s return to commercial whaling 14 years ago.
I hate writing negative stuff about Norway – it’s one of my favourite countries in the world. I love the people, I love the landscape, I love the culture. Blather’s Barry loves it so much he even moved there. But I don’t like this whaling business.
Around 30 whaling vessels are taking part in the hunt, with more than a thousand minke whales targetted during a five month season, which started on 1st April. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this wouldn’t be allowed – as there’s an international ban on commercial whaling. Yet, Norway keeps hunting North Atlantic minkes anyway This is because of 1993 legal ‘objection’ lodged against the ban – followed by an alarming increase in its self-allocated quota at an alarming rate in recent years: From 670 in 2004, to 796 in 2005 up to 1052 in 2007.
Last year, the hunt was suspended for three weeks – because the whalers couldn’t sell the meat from the whales they’d killed, suggesting that there’s no market for dead whales.
More here, on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website: Norway’s whaling season to begin
Norwegian whaling
As you know, I was on the recent Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic on board the Esperanza to try and finally put an end to the scourge of whaling. As it turned out, it was a weird trip, with the Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, incapacitated by a fire, and the loss of a crewman.
The expedition is over, but the the work isn’t. It’s just over a month to the International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage, and I’m busy blogging away over on the Defending Whales blog. And doubtless, as soon as I post this, I’ll have some of the pro-whaling apologists posting like crazy here, telling me that I’m living in the past for having the temerity to think that whaling is – in this day and age – a daft idea. Whaling is a thing of the past – or at least it should be.

– Dave
Virtual March: Greece for whales »
Nicaragua says it will no longer vote for whaling! »
Defending Whales blog »
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Defending whales on Myspace »
Whalers’ Myths — and the Reality »
My flickr photos from the Antarctic »

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. Hi,
    Happy to see that you love Norway and Norwegians. We don’t have any problems with you not liking whaling, you’re certainly entitled to have a personal opinion. We think sustainable commercial whaling provides good eco-meat, setting the standard for future food production. Of course this view does not neglect that there are opposite views.
    Rune Frøvik
    High North Alliance

  2. Rune – thanks for your very measured response – it’s definitely welcome, and much better than some of the other pro-whaling comments I’ve seen in the last few months.
    If modern commercial whaling could be proved to be sustainable – which so far it hasn’t, at any level, including financial , then perhaps it would be an “eco-food”. The thing is, you’d have to find someone willing to eat it!

  3. Hi, I’ve done a quick calculation here. I’m not completely sure of the numbers so you are welcome to double check them.
    According to this page:
    A minke whale will consume 1814kg of fish each day, and as you said the Norwegian quota will be 1052 minke whales for 2007.
    A quick calculation reveals the following:
    1814kg * 365days * 1052
    = 696 539 720 kg of fish each year!
    According to:
    The total allowed fish quota in Norwegian waters in 2006 is
    27 300 000 kg, and this is to be smaller in 2007.
    If these numbers are correct the Norwegian quota is actually more than 20 times smaller than a years fish consument of 1052 minke whales. Which in turn means that the hunting of these whales is necessary to retain balance in the ecosystem of Norwegian waters. If we still want to get large amounts of seafood up from the oceans, food which we rely heavy upon, we need to control the population of the big fish hunting sea creatures. It’s sad but absolutely necessary.

  4. Kristian, it’s a sad state of affairs when the fishing industry needs to start blaming whales for its own folly.
    Tell me this – up until the advent of mechanized industrial fishing, was there ever a shortage of fish? If not, what were the naughty whales eating then, cheese sandwiches?
    The reason that fish stocks are under threat is not because of whales eating more fish – it’s because of humans eating more fish.
    Check out this information from the recent National Geographic magazine
    • The average consumption of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks worldwide is 36 pounds (16 kilograms) per person.
    • In 2002, about 76 percent of the estimated world fisheries production was used for direct human consumption. Worldwide, about one billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein.
    • Global production from capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied about 101 million metric tons of fish in 2002, five times more than 50 years ago.
    • Of the top ten species that account in total for about 30 percent of world capture fisheries, seven stocks are considered fully exploited or overexploited.
    • In 12 of the 16 statistical regions of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, at least 70 percent of stocks are fully or overexploited.
    • The Northwest Pacific is the most productive fishing area in the world with 20 million to 24 million metric tons of fish a year.
    • Trawling accounts for over 50 percent of the estimated discards (bycatch), while representing about 22 percent of total landings.
    • Tropical shrimp trawls have the highest discard rate and account for over 27 percent of the total estimated discards. Among shrimp trawls, 62 percent of the catch is discarded.
    • By January 2008, the European Union will require the use of acoustic deterrent devices (pingers) on fishing nets and the monitoring of bycatches through an observer scheme.
    • In Alaska, longline fisheries using modified lines and hooks have shown reductions in seabird bycatch by 88 percent to 100 percent. New gear regulations are expected to result from this success.
    • The number of people earning an income primarily from fisheries and aquaculture was about 38 million in 2002. Eighty-five percent of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture workers are in Asia, with China accounting for one-third of the total.
    • In industrialized countries, especially Japan and the EU, employment in fishing has been declining for several years. The fishing workforce in most developed countries is getting older as fewer young people are attracted to the business.
    • The share of developing countries in total fishery exports was 48 percent by value and 57 percent by quantity in 2004.
    • Japan is the largest single-country importer of fish with 18 percent of the world total, followed by the United States with 17 percent. The EU as a block is the world’s largest market for fish, accounting for 40 percent of total imports.
    • U.S. consumers spent 62 billion dollars for fishery products in 2004.
    • More than 70 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and at least 40 percent of that is farm-raised.
    —David O’Connor and Marisa Larson

  5. What would it take to prove that modern commercial whaling is sustainable?
    I believe to some extent that modern whaling is eco-friendly. Scientists approximate the number of whales before any quotas are given, so we’re not just killing as many as we can.
    I don’t see how it’s anymore wrong to hunt whales than to fish cod. It’s been proven that fish feels pain very similar to us, and I think it’s the same with whales. So why is the life of a whale worth more than that of any other animal?
    I think all hunting should depend on the population, whether we’re talking about whales or fish. My questions are: what’s the feasible number of whales to hunt, and how can we agree on it? And could you ever accept the killing of whales, or are you in principle against it saying the life of a whale is worth more than that for instance of a cow?
    I personally don’t have any opinion on how many whales we could take out without hurting the ecosystem. That’s for professionals to decide…
    Student, Norway.

  6. Good point Eivind – one of the main things that makes me suspicious about claims of “sustainable” whaling is how the whaling nations treat international agreements – and how organisations like the IWC function. Commercial whaling ceased after the IWC decleared a moratorium in 1986. Yet Japan just started killing hundreds of whales for “research”. Norway simply oobjected, which mean that it’s whaling industry could continue killing whales.
    More here on the 1986 moratorium »
    To me, labelling something “sustainable” doesn’t make it so – looks suspicious – and smells of a poor attempt at greenwashing.

  7. >”From 670 in 2004, to 796 in 2005 up to 1052 in 2007.”
    The numbers do not make sense without a perspective. How large is the stock of mink whales in these areas? How many persent of the stock is 1052? Was the stock still growing after the 2004 and 2005 season?

    I have heard that some of the reason for the increase in 2007 quota was leftovers from the 2006 quota.


  8. Hi Olsen – I got those figures from the WDCS – I’d be interested to hear any other interpretations.

  9. I’m sorry I used the wrong numbers. But still my argument stands. People take a lot of space in this world. It’s sad that we make such a huge impact, but it’s the reality, and as the human population continues to grow, we will need more and more food. Fishes is the most effective source of meat, as they grow quickly compared to what they eat. If we still want to use this source of food we need to make sure the eco-system is in balance. I don’t blame the whales for destroying the eco-system, of course this is our fault. But if we want to continue to hunt and eat fish, we need to cut down the population of whales. If we want to stop fishing, we can do this as well, but then we need to find an enormous source of food to replace the food from the ocean, and I just don’t see that happening.

  10. Hi Dave,
    You deny sustainable whaling once again, yet it was just a few days ago that I pointed out to you here that the sustainability question has long since been resolved by the IWC’s scientists.
    Greenpeace will eventually become completely irrelevant if it fails to update it’s arguments against whaling for the 21st century.

  11. Rightyo then, sustainable Whaling, I’ve had a few Ideas, but they dont seem to stand up to scrutiny.
    Personaly I think sustainable whalin is a goer, 1052 whales, tis a hell of a lot more meat than 1052 cattle, however I’m not a fan of this new shift in the argument towards kilin the whales to preserve the fish stocks from being eaten by whales, thats just a cop out. time and effort needs to be spent promoting whale as an ecofriendly and tasty option for the average suburban household dinner

  12. Well spotted David – it wasn’t today or yesterday that I became sceptical about the concept of “sustainable” whaling.
    Would you like to point out to the kids in the audience just how the “sustainability question” has been “resolved by the IWC’s scientists”?
    They’re just dying to know.

  13. Good for you Dave – Norway is quite out-of-step with World opinion.
    Norwegian authorities can argue all they like but the fact is that the whale populations are in major decline.
    Arguing figures on fish stocks is simply a ploy and a distraction – again the statistics speak for themselves as fish stocks decline rapidly.
    There is one common denominator – mankind. As a species we are wreckers but as most of the World is beginning to wake up – it is a pity many in Norway don’t begin to do likewise!

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