Defying global ban, Norway resumes whale exports
Author: Inger Sethov
Oslo said world opinion would not curb its independence. Greenpeace activists accused the government of "arrogance".
Norway refuses to sign up to the trading ban, along with Japan and Iceland, but had not sold whale meat or blubber since 1988 until a small shipment arrived in Iceland in midweek.
"It feels good to get started. Even though it's not a huge quantum, it's a step in the right direction," Ole Mindor Myklebust of export firm Myklebust Trading AS told Reuters.
Concerns for the survival of the world's biggest mammals persuaded most fishing nations to ban commercial whaling in 1986. The separate CITES convention on trade in endangered species bars buying and selling whale products.
Norway, with a long history of whaling, resumed commercial hunting of minke whales in 1993, arguing their numbers are from extinction levels and they are in fact damaging fish stocks.
"We need to do our job to maintain the ecological balance and a sustainable food chain," Myklebust said. "It's good, healthy food and should be eaten."
"Whaling is a matter of principle and the right to self determination," Johan Williams, director-general at the Norwegian Fisheries Ministry told Reuters. "We cannot let the world opinion rule how we manage our resources."
Environmental campaigners from Greenpeace saw it otherwise.
"It's rude and arrogant of Norwegian authorities to force through their stance despite opposition from the whole world," Greenpeace spokesman Truls Gulowsen told Reuters in Oslo.
"It's a ridiculous way of proving Norway's independence."
Myklebust said the first shipment to Iceland contained four tonnes of meat and four tonnes of blubber at an average price of 60 Norwegian crowns ($8.20) per kg (2.2 lb).
Norway has a 1,000-tonne frozen blubber mountain stacked away because although Norwegians eat the meat most despise the creamy blubber. It is, however, a delicacy in Iceland and Norway also hopes to expand into the huge Japanese market.
The fisheries ministry said it would discuss whale trade with a Japanese delegation in Oslo on July 31 aiming to expand exports into Japan as soon as possible.
Norway said last year it would resume trading whale products but had been waiting for demand while Iceland carried out DNA genetic tests to help Oslo track the meat.
Japan is testing Norwegian whale for possible cancer-causing chemicals. Tokyo allows whaling for "scientific research" though its critics say the several hundred whales, mostly minke, that its ships kill each year are really being hunted commercially.