Environmental campaigners have criticised Norway’s killing of hundreds of whales this year, despite what they say is dwindling interest there in eating whale meat.
Wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) said Norwegian whalers had killed more than 570 minke whales in the 2021 season, which it said was the highest number in five years.
The number killed is up from 503 whales last year, according to figures environmental groups have obtained from the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation.
Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at WDC said: “Killing hundreds of minke whales is utterly inexcusable, especially given the essential role they play in our oceans.
“Whales are our allies in the battle against climate change.”
She added: “Coming only days after the record slaughter of dolphins off the Faroe Islands and in the midst of the climate and species extinction crises, as well as a global pandemic, it is shameful that Norwegian whalers have killed the highest number of minke whales this season in five years, despite dwindling public appetite for whale meat.”
WDC said the way that whales feed, poo, migrate and dive between the surface and depths of the ocean circulates essential nutrients through the seas, helping maintain a healthy marine system which stores carbon.
As the hunting season ends, polling commissioned by NOAH, Norway’s largest animal protection charity, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and WDC suggests falling interest among Norwegians in eating whale meat.
The poll of more than 1000 Norwegians by Respons Analyse AS found just 2% ate whale meat often, down from 4% in 2019, and no-one under the age of 35 indicated they ate it frequently.
Just under a quarter (24%) of those questioned said they ate whale meat but only rarely, and 29% said they had eaten it a long time ago.
The polling also highlighted concerns many have over how the hunts are conducted, and support for prohibiting whaling in areas that are important for tourism.
Susan Millward, director of AWI’s marine animal programme, said: “Live whales can play an important role in Norway’s tourism economy, as Iceland and Greenland have already recognised by creating sanctuaries for whales in areas that host responsible whale-watching and other ecotourism activities.
“We urge the new Norwegian government to listen to its citizens, and establish similar whaling-free zones, especially in key tourist areas such as Svalbard and Finnmark.”
The minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said: “We are experiencing increased interest in Norwegian whale meat. The quotas on minke whale are set on the basis of scientific knowledge approved by the Scientific Committee of the IWC, and are caught in a sustainable manner.
“In addition, whales are healthy and good food, and Norwegians want minke whales on their dinner plate”