The deadliest year for minke whales since 2016 in Norway.
In February 2021, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Seafood announced that the annual kill quota for the 2021 whaling season had been issued – 1,278 minke whales. This was a self-allocated quota and unchanged from 2020.
The whaling season came to an end on Wednesday 27th September with a total of 575 minke whales slaughtered – an increase in 72 from 2020 and the deadliest year for minke whales since 2016.
Minke whales are the smallest of the rorqual whales and the most abundant in European waters. They are typically seen on their own or in groups of 2-3 individuals and can typically be distinguished by the white band on both of their pectoral fins. They are registered as Least Concern by the IUCN but are one of many species which have been put under threat by commercial whaling. Their name even originates from an 18th-century Norwegian whaler. They were commercially hunted by several countries until the 1980s but today, just Norway, Iceland and Japan continue to hunt this species.
In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium on commercial whaling, that came into effect in 1986. However, Norway registered an objection, and in 1993 resumed commercial whaling following a period of five years between 1986 and 1993, where a small number of whales were slaughtered under scientific permits. Since then over 14,000 whales have been killed by Norway and the country continues to kill more whales each year than any other country that participates in commercial whaling (Japan and Iceland).
In 2020 it was reported that there was once again an increase in the demand for whale meat due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many Norwegians holidaying in Northern Norway, due to travel restrictions, interested in trying local delicacies. However, according to results from a new poll commissioned by NOAH, the Animal Welfare Institute and Whale and Dolphin Conservation despite the increase in whales slaughtered, the desire for whale meat in Norway actually remains low. 1,037 Norwegians aged 18-87 took part in the poll. It shows that the number of people who said they eat whale meat fell by 2% to 2% from a poll conducted in 2019. It also showed that no participants under the age of 35 ate whale meat frequently.
Norwegians also expressed concern about how whales were killed. 1 in 5 whales that are harpooned do not die instantly, which 65% of respondents found unacceptable. 63% found it unacceptable that two-thirds of the whales slaughtered are female, and nearly half of them are pregnant.
Dr Siri Martinsen, a veterinarian for NOAH, Norway’s largest animal protection organisation, said “Whales continue to endure excruciating deaths from grenade harpoons, it is completely unacceptable that 18% of hunted whales do not die instantly and are left to suffer.” She added that the results of the 2021 poll “clearly show that whale welfare is a major consideration for Norwegians.”
Other results from the poll show that 71% of respondents aged 18-24 believe that similar to Greenland and Iceland, Norway should establish no whaling zones, with many expressing that whales should be seen not as food but as tourist attractions.
Susan Millward, director of the Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program, said that despite all efforts on marketing whale meat to consumers, “Norwegians are clearly not interested in eating whale meat.”
ORCA believe whaling is a brutal practice that has no place in modern-day society. The whaling industry is in decline and sales for the meat is falling. Opposition to this cruel trade must be maintained by the public, NGOs and governments so that those countries defying the global consensus will eventually be forced to end commercial whaling.
We must continue to collaborate on an international level to protect these beautiful, intelligent and awe-inspiring animals.