Export Comes Amid Criticism for Country’s Increased Whaling
Washington, DC—Documents obtained by the Washington, DC-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) reveal that a Norwegian whaling company, Lofothval, has sought permission to ship up to 22,000 pounds (10 metric tons) of whale meat to Iceland. The export request comes barely a month after the United States government raised concerns about Norway’s escalating whaling and trade in whale products during the 65th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Norwegian whalers killed 731 minke whales in 2014, more than in any year since the country resumed commercial whaling in 1993, and the hunt yielded a record 871 metric tons of whale meat. However, domestic sales of whale meat have struggled in recent years, as government- and industry-subsidized whale meat marketing programs look to increase local demand. Norwegian whalers therefore endorse increased exports, claiming that international trade in whale meat is needed to help ensure the survival of the industry.
"Norway has systematically increased its cruel slaughter of whales in recent years,” said Susan Millward, AWI executive director. "The United States recently imposed diplomatic measures against Iceland for its whaling and trade in whale products, and we believe that these same penalties should be imposed on Norway. We call on the United States and other governments to act decisively to bring international trade in whale products to an immediate halt.”
The Lofothval request to send minke whale meat to Iceland comes on the heels of a massive 2,100 ton shipment of fin whale meat from Iceland to Japan. The Icelandic shipment was orchestrated by Kristján Loftsson, managing director of the Hvalur fin whaling company. Loftsson, who is also chair of the Icelandic seafood giant HB Grandi, is a shareholder in the Lofothval company.
“Consumption of whale meat in Norway has declined as concern for the welfare of whales killed by Norwegian whalers has increased,” said Siri Martinsen, director of NOAH, a Norway-based animal rights organization. “Poll results reveal that 42 percent of Norwegians oppose whaling if some whales suffer at the time of death while, sadly, 31 percent support whaling regardless of the cruelty. We would welcome trade sanctions against Norwegian companies engaged in whaling imposed by the US government.”
1. The International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling was agreed to in 1982, and took effect as of 1986. Norway lodged a legal objection to that decision, and in 1993 resumed commercial whaling. The IWC passed a resolution in 2001 calling on Norway to halt all whaling activities. Norway’s self-allocated quotas for whales are not approved by the IWC.
2. Whales are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and as such, international commercial trade in whale products is banned under the treaty. Norway, Iceland and Japan have taken reservations to the Appendix I listing and thus are technically allowed to trade in whale products. However, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has expressed concern at the escalating trade in whale products under reservation.
3. In 1994, Norway was certified by the United States under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act for undermining the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW),the treaty under which the IWC’s whaling moratorium was approved. Norwaywas not subject to sanctions, including potential trade sanctions, at the time based on an agreement with the United States—one of the requirements of whichwas that Norway would not engage in international trade in whale products.
4. Norway has shipped more than 4 metric tons of whale meat to the Faroe Islands since 2006, the most recent export taking place in July of this year. In addition, 46.7 metric tons of whale meat and blubber have been shipped to Japan since 2006, including a combined shipment from Lofothval of both Norwegian and Icelandic whale meat and blubber in late 2013.
5. For more information on Norwegian trade in whale products, see http://www.awionline.org/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/ML-AWI-Briefing-on-Whaling-Norway-Exports-April2013.pdf.