Norway killed whales for commercial purposes before the 1982 International Whaling Commission (IWC) decision to impose a moratorium on commercial whaling. It exported most of the whale products from the approximately 2,000 minke whales it took each year to Japan. Norway formally objected to the moratorium decision, which under IWC rules meant that it was not technically bound by it.
When the moratorium came into effect in 1986, Norway initially undertook a small-scale scientific hunt of minke whales. In 1993, however, it announced that it would resume commercial whaling under its objection. It has continued to whale for commercial purposes since that time, killing many hundreds of minke whales every year, almost exclusively for the domestic market.
Since 1993, Norway has killed more than 11,000 minke whales for commercial purposes. Norway’s quotas have not been approved by the IWC, and are also set using a method that it is not the most precautionary. In recent years the number of whales taken has been vastly lower than these self-appointed quotas; for example, in 2013, 594 minke whales were killed, less than half the 1,286 quota.
Over the course of the first 12 years of the 21st century, it appeared that the Norwegian whaling industry was in a downward spiral. In 2003, 35 whaling boats were registered. By 2013, that number had dropped to 17. A similar downturn occurred in the number of companies registered to buy and sell whale meat.
However, in 2012, the Norwegian government introduced a marketing plan to encourage whale meat consumption. The plan introduced modernized packaging for whale meat, including “ready to heat and serve” meals. Distribution of the “new” products spread beyond local markets to national supermarket chains.
In addition, there was a push by the Norwegian Fisheries Ministry to gain entry into the Japanese market. Although Norway has shipped small amounts of whale meat to the Faroe Islands in recent years, it had failed to break into the lucrative Japanese market. This changed in 2013, and at least three shipments of Norwegian whale meat and blubber were exported to Japan.
As a likely result of the combined domestic marketing efforts and exports to Japan, 23 Norwegian vessels requested whaling permits in 2014.