AWI Responds to Norway's Whaling Defiance

Norway has seen a continuous drop in demand for whale meat for several years, yet it continues to set quotas and kill whales in defiance of the commercial whaling moratorium established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In fact, over the past decade, Norway has killed more whales than either Japan or Iceland; over the past two years, it has killed more whales than Iceland and Japan combined.

Norway, though, hasn’t received the same negative attention that those two countries receive. Perhaps this is because, unlike the others, Norway’s whalers don’t kill endangered species and don’t hunt whales in a designated whale sanctuary; nevertheless, over 5,500 minke whales have perished from Norwegian harpoons since 2006.

Norway is able to get around the IWC’s prohibition on commercial whaling because of an objection it filed to the ban. Further, its self-allocated quota—which has been set at 880 minke whales for 2016—has not been approved by the IWC, and was formulated using methods that the IWC Scientific Committee has deemed “insufficient” for conservation.

It seems that intransigence is the main reason that Norway continues whaling. The meat isn’t being purchased for human consumption—at least not in Norway. Repeated attempts to make whale meat fashionable—and not viewed as the “depression era” necessity it once was—have failed. Rather than acknowledge that whaling has seen its day, the whalers and their supporters continue to find ways to profit from their cruel craft.

Exports of whale products from Norway are on the rise—shipped to Japan, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, all of which have their own whaling industries. Norway, Japan, and Iceland are all parties to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits international trade in whale products. The three countries circumvent this, however, because they lodged reservations against the prohibitions. The Faroe Islands is not a party to CITES, even though it is a self-ruling nation within the Kingdom of Denmark, which is a party.

Despite Norwegians’ lack of enthusiasm for whale meat, not all whale products are exported. AWI and the Environmental Investigation Agency were tipped off earlier this year that whale meat equating to more than 75 minke whales was sold to an animal feed manufacturer in Norway for use in fur farms. We substantiated this by obtaining a copy of a document from the feed manufacturer, Rogaland Pelsdyrfôrlag, which showed that 113.7 metric tons of whale meat had been used as food for fur-bearing animals in 2014. Following release of our information in Norwegian media, the director of Rogaland Pelsdyrfôrlag confirmed that whale products had been used in 2015 as well.

This persistent and flagrant disregard for the whaling moratorium and trade ban by Norway cannot go unchallenged. AWI has partnered with the German group ProWildlife and Switzerland-based OceanCare to publish Frozen in Time: How Modern Norway Clings to Its Whaling Past. The 23-page report documents how Norway quietly became the biggest whaling nation: its step-by-step loosening of national whaling regulations, its defiance of whaling and trade bans, its escalation of trade in whale products, and the failure of international diplomats to act on all these developments. We will distribute the report widely, including at upcoming IWC and CITES meetings. To obtain a free copy, visit or call/write us.

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