02 September 2005

Norwegian government lifts quota controls in desperate bid to keep whaling industry going

As the 2005 Norwegian whaling season drew to a close, the Norwegian government called for the lifting of the maximum kill quota within the country's EEZ, in a desperate last-minute attempt to see that the 2005 quota of 796 minke whales could be filled.

The reason? For the fourth year in a row, Norway looks set to fall short of reaching its kill targets, calling into question the government's contention that they need to take more and more whales.

As it became clear throughout the season that whaling vessels were not meeting quotas, the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate in July first tried to encourage more whaling by raising the per-boat quota for whales killed within the nation's EEZ by 3 whales per boat. When that regulation failed and with the catch still falling well short of goals, the Directorate made an additional last-ditch recommendation: effective as of August 19th, the maximum quota on killing minke whales within the Norwegian EEZ was lifted.

The Norwegian Fisheries Directorate has gone all out all it in 2005 to make things easy for the whaling industry. The season began in April, earlier than usual, in the hopes of encouraging greater profits and a record number of whale kills. In addition, Norwegian whaling vessels were no longer required to have a human inspector on board, and instead carry an electronic log book, known as the "blue box".

WDCS spokesperson Philippa Brakes said, "This blue-box has been a significant step backwards. With the removal of human inspectors on-board the whaling vessels, the welfare of the hunted whales may go unreported. Data provided by Norway already indicate that at least 20 per cent of the minke whales killed during Norwegian hunts do not die immediately. Without the control provided by a human inspector, we fear times to death could increase, and that more whales could be struck and lost."

Philippa added: "In addition to welfare concerns with the blue box, we believe that by removing the human inspector on board, the government has lost its ability to keep track of the number of catches in real time. Why else would the newly issued Fisheries regulation demand that whalers report kills immediately to the Norwegian Rafisklaget, if they are not concerned that they do not have complete information?"

Efforts to sell whale products have also been increased this year. In a move to boost whale meat sales, a new PR marketing campaign has been given high priority, promoting products such as whale burgers.

WDCS believes that Norway -- which currently hunts under a reservation to the whaling ban -- is hoping that it can increase pressure at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and thus push the Commission into allowing for "controlled" commercial coastal whaling.

Philippa said: "Norway's blatant attempts to promote ever-increasing whale kills make a mockery of its claims that its commercial whaling can be well-regulated. This year's constant changes in regulations show what the real motivation is and always has been for the whalers: profit, profit, and more profit. Animal welfare, food safety concerns, strict controls -- all of these have been pushed aside in the effort to stimulate a flagging industry, and coerce the IWC into lifting the moratorium."

Source: www.wdcs.org


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