Norwegian whalers headed for the Barents Sea this week as Norway began its annual hunt for minke whale. Norway has set a catch limit of 670 minke whales for 2004.
Norway is the only country that openly hunts whales commercially in defiance of the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on whale hunting, and has done so since 1993. Both Japan and Iceland also hunt small numbers of whales but claim — rather transparently — that their hunts are for scientific research purposes.
Norway claims that since the IWC’s own numbers suggests there are more than 100,000 minke whales in the North Atlantic that its hunt is necessary to keep minke numbers in line to prevent the large animals from lowering fishing stock.
Norwegian Greenpeace activist Frode Pleym, however, expressed what appears to be the IWC’s majority opinion — that it’s simply wrong to hunt whales commercially under any circumstances and regardless of their numbers. Pleym told Agence-France Presse,
We are opposed to all forms of commercial hunting.
Pleym also points out that the total value of the commercial whale hunt for Norway is very small, amount to around $11 million.
Ruen Froevik, of the pro-whaling lobby group High North Alliance, told AFP that this was besides the point,
For the rich Norwegian economy, the whale hunt is nothing. But it’s a question of principle. When there is an abundant resource, we should be allowed to exploit it. And, from a scientific point of view, whales are at the top of the food chain, eating more of the sea’s resources than the entire Norwegian fishing industry.
Norway’s commercial whale season will end on August 31.
Norway’s whale-hunting season opens in Barents Sea. Agence-France Presse, May 10, 2004.
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