Norway’s 2020 Whaling Season is Deadliest in Years

Photo by N. Seeliger
Photo by N. Seeliger

Washington, DC—Norwegian whalers slaughtered more whales in 2020 than in each of the last three years, according to statistics released today by the Fishermen’s Sales Organization (Råfisklaget). A total of 481 minke whales have been killed so far this year—52 more than last year—and the whaling season is still underway.

“Nearly 70 percent of the whales being targeted by Norwegian whalers are females, many of whom are pregnant,” said Kate O’Connell, marine animal consultant at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “This is irresponsible from a conservation perspective, as such a preponderance of females can impact genetic diversity and slow population growth. Worse still, the hunt has serious repercussions for animal welfare, as each year dozens of whales shot by grenade-tipped harpoons do not die instantly.”

The whaling industry claims that demand for whale meat has dramatically improved, but Norway has seen a continuous drop in domestic sales of whale meat in recent years. A recent survey commissioned by AWI and others found that only 4 percent of Norwegians polled admitted to eating whale meat “often,” while two-thirds either have never eaten it or only did so “a long time ago.”

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, yet Norway formally objected and resumed commercial whaling 11 years later. Since that time, the country has killed more than 14,000 minke whales. This year, 12 vessels have been involved in the hunt, which is expected to end early next month.

In an attempt to keep its flailing whaling industry alive, Norway exports whale meat to the Faroe Islands and Iceland, as well as sending increasing quantities of whale meat and blubber to Japan. Whale meat and oil have also been used in dog food. In another troubling effort to bolster the industry, whale products have been sold to fur farms to use in animal feed—supporting another cruel industry.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate relaxed a number of whaling regulations to encourage additional vessels to engage in whaling. AWI joined with a number of other organizations in contesting the agency’s proposal—to no avail. Instead of loosening regulations and expanding its whaling fleet, Norway must stop issuing quotas in defiance of the IWC moratorium.

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Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]