On Friday the 19th February 2021, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Seafood announced that an annual kill quota for the 2021 whaling season had been issued.
In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium on commercial whaling, that came into effect in 1986. However, Norway registered an objection to the moratorium 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 they continue to kill more whales each year than any of the other counties that participate in commercial whaling (Japan and Iceland).
On Friday the 19th February 2021, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, announced that an annual kill quota for 2021 had been issued – 1,278 minke whales, this was a self-allocated quota and unchanged from 2020.
Ingebrigtsen commented that he hoped the upward trend for whale meat would continue, but despite the whaling industry claiming that demand for the meat was on the rise, in recent years there has been a drop in domestic sales. In 2019 the Animal Welfare Institute commissioned a survey which found that only four percent of Norwegians actually admitted to eating whale meat “often” and two thirds had never eaten it (or did “a long time ago”). It also found that younger people were the least interested in eating whale meat, with 75% having never tried it or did a “long time ago” and that the consumption of whale meat was highest among those aged 70+. 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, and were interested in trying local delicacies.
Norway’s 2020 whaling season ran from April 1st to September 30th and was the deadliest year for minke whales since 2016, with 503 slaughtered – an increase of 74 compared to 2019. In 2016, 600 whales were killed. Sixteen vessels requested a permit to hunt whales in 2020 but only 13 participated. As was the case in previous years, 2020 showed shipments of the meat from Norway to the Faroe Islands and Japan.
Minke whales are the smallest of the rorqual whales and the most abundant in European waters. 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.
New government regulations put in place in 2020 in Norway show concerning developments in commercial whaling, which aim to increase participation. The changes mean that to participate in whaling either the owner of the whaling vessel or one person on board are the only people required to have experience killing minke whales in the past six years. Inexperienced hunters will not have the precision needed to minimise the suffering of these animals. Whales are not killed immediately or painlessly even with the most advanced whaling techniques. These changes prompt a major welfare concern.
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.