Norway kills 729 whales in record year for hunt but demand failing for meat

It is one of only three countries to defy an international ban on whaling

More than 720 whales have been harpooned in Norway in the most deadly hunting season since the Government began defying an international ban in 1993.

The number is under the country’s self-imposed quota of 1,286 and the Government claims the four-month hunt is for the “protection and sustainable harvesting of marine resources”.

But retailers are having trouble shifting the huge amount of minke meat in supermarkets, as Norwegians show little appetite for whale.

Some is exported to Japan, which was ordered to end its own whale hunts in the Antarctic by the UN earlier this year.

It had attempted to get around the 1986 international ban by justifying the slaughter of more than 10,000 whales for “scientific purposes”.

Around 21 vessels participated in Norway’s whaling season this year, which takes place off the northern coast.

Leif Einar Karlsen, a whale hunter, shows how to harpoon whales in the port of Svolvaer on August 20, 2008 Leif Einar Karlsen, a whale hunter, shows how to harpoon whales in the port of Svolvaer in 2008 Åge Eriksen, director of fishing firm Hopen Fisk, told NRK Nordland that the number of catches has posed challenges for sellers.

“Good catches are positive, but we now face market challenges,” he said.

“We possess more meat than we can sell and that is not a favourable position to be in.”

Good weather conditions, with flat seas, helped the hunt and warm weather reportedly increased the demand for grilled whale.

The Norwegian Government’s fishing ministry claimed there are 71,000 minke whales in the central Atlantic off Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

A statement said: “Norwegian whaling is based on the principle of protection and sustainable harvesting of marine resources.

“Management of resources is founded on scientific advice, with the objective based on the concept of an ecosystem approach.”

Inspectors ensure compliance with whaling regulations, it added, and whalers have to take an annual course on safety and on ways to “ensure that as little pain and stress as possible is inflicted” on the mammals.

A factory worker packages whale meat on the islet of Skrova, near Svolvaer A factory worker packages whale meat on the islet of Skrova, near Svolvaer But animal rights campaigners claim there is no humane way to kill a whale and have recorded incidents where the animals take 10 minutes or more to die.

In an open letter urging Norway’s Prime Minister to put a stop to whaling, the animal charity Peta said: “The suffering experienced by these animals before death as they are shot with exploding harpoons and rifles is indefensible and would be illegal if farmed animals in Norway were the victims.

“These animals' right to live should be respected, and Norway itself would benefit from promoting whale watching rather than whale killing as a commercial enterprise.

“A cruel industry like whaling has no place in your country – or any country.”

Read more: Film reveals Norway's whale slaughter
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