Norway Wants to Increase Minke Whale Catch

In mid-May, Norway once again began its annual minke whale hunt, setting a quota of 670 whales to be killed through the end of August. But by 2006 the quota could be almost tripled to 1,800 whales, and may eventually expand to other species of whale.

In late May the Norwegian Parliament passed a resolution calling for an increase in the quota of minke whales to 1,800, and the Norwegian fisheries minister told the BBC that his country also wanted to begin using satellite transmitters to estimate the population size of other species.

Rune Frovik, a representative of Norway’s pro-whaling High Northern Alliance, told the BBC,

The resolution does leave some room for interpretation, though it’s pretty clear what Parliament wants, and the government will have to deliver.

We think the minke quota could be up to 1,800 by 2006. It’s not clear whether the scientific whaling being suggested should be lethal or non-lethal, but I don’t think the idea of killing whales is ruled out.

The proposal appears to apply in principle to virtually any species except bowheads and blue whales, though in practice I think the government is more interested in assessing stocks of fins, humpbacks, pilot whales and several dolphins.

According to the International Whaling Commission, about 1,400 whales are killed annually between Japan, Iceland and Norway. Increasing the quota would put that number over 2,500, and it would probably rise even further if Japan and Iceland decide, as they seem increasingly likely to do, to increase the number of whales they kill.

This proposal should add even more fireworks to the IWC’s annual meeting this July.


Norway seeks tripled whale catch. Alex Kirby, BBC News, May 28, 2004.

Makah Await Result of Latest Appeal on Whale Hunt

In November 2003 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Makah would not receive a rehearing of the court’s December 2002 decision barring the hunt. In that decision, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that the Makah must apply for a permit to hunt whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In December the Makah filed an appeal asking the case to be heard by the full court of appeals. That appeal was rejected, but the court said the Makah could file another appeal, so on February 10 it formally requested that the court reconsider the decision blocking the whale hunt.

The answer to that appeal should come in the next month or two.


Tribe’s whalers await chance to hunt again. Lewis Kamb, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 17, 2004.

Makah whaling: Five years, it’s a court case. Peninsula Daily News, May 16, 2004.

Norway Begins Minke Whale Hunt

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.

Judge Dismisses Activist's Lawsuit Over Makah Injuries

In April 2000, Erin Abbott was one of a number of activists who used watercraft to dart in and out of an exclusion zone set up by the Coast Guard during the Makah whale hunt. Abbott’s watercraft collided with a Coast Guard boat that attempted to shield a Makah canoe in the exclusion zone.

Activists at the time likened the collision to attempted murder on the part of the Coast Guard and, incredibly, Abbott sued the Coast Guard over the injuries.

Not surprisingly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a judge has dismissed Abbott’s lawsuit saying that she was “wholly responsible” for the injuries she sustained.

According to the Post-Intelligencer, Judge Franklin Burgess said in his ruling that,

Ms. Abbott thus not only intentionally violated the MEZ (exclusionary zone), which she knew was in effect, and pled guilty to negligent endangerment of life at sea, and violated the rules of the road, but she violated safe operating practices, good seamanship, federal regulation and common sense in making high-speed passes with a personal watercraft in the vicinity of a canoe, a vessel engaged in a completely lawful activity in the open ocean with little freeboard.

Abbott was sentenced to just 120 hours of community service on the negligent endangerment charge.


Judge throws out whaling protester’s lawsuit against Coast Guard Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 6, 2003.

Iceland Resumes Whaling

In August, Iceland resumed limited whaling for “scientific” purposes.

At this summer’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission, Iceland had floated a proposal that would have allowed it to kill more than 200 whales annually for scientific research purposes along the same lines as Japan’s current whaling efforts.

That proposal was soundly rejected. However, when Iceland rejoined the International Whaling Commission a couple years ago, it stipulated that it reserved the right to pursue small-scale scientific research whaling. Coming off the defeat of its proposal for scientific whaling, Iceland informed IWC members in August that it would kill 38 minke whales as part of its research efforts.

The move was widely condemned in anti-whaling nations. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, for example, said of the move,

We’re extremely disappointed with Iceland’s decision to begin a lethal research whaling program, which anticipates taking 38 minke whales. Although the program is technically legal under the Whaling Convention, we’ve said many times that lethal research on whales is not necessary and the needed scientific data can be obtained by well-established, non-lethal means.

The taking of whales by Iceland will likely trigger a review by the Department of Commerce of Iceland’s lethal scientific whaling process program for possible certification under the Pelly Amendment.

Under the Pelly Amendment, a finding that Iceland’s scientific whaling program is undermining international conservation efforts aimed at sustaining the population of minke whales could result in bans on the importation of goods from Iceland (don’t hold your breath for that to happen, however).

Iceland’s representative to the International Whaling Commission, Stefan Asmundsson, told the Associated Press that his country expected to encounter a lot of opposition to its resumption of whaling,

We knew beforehand there would be countries who would object and we knew that this research was going to cost us a lot of money to carry out. Regardless of these facts, we believe that it is so important that we simply cannot afford not to do it.

There has been some talk of consumer boycotts of products from Iceland, but polls within that country suggest that upwards of two-thirds of the people there support the resumption of whaling.

This could be the precursor to something even bigger. Many observers did not expect Iceland to resume whaling at all until after 2006, when Iceland has said it reserves the right to resume commercial whaling.

If Iceland does decide to resume whaling in 2006, the anti-whaling forces in the IWC will have won a pyrrhic victory. They will have kept the IWC on record as opposing any resumption of commercial whaling, while pushing Iceland and potentially other countries to resume whaling outside of the IWC’s jurisdiction and oversight.


Another Contentious International Whaling Commission Meeting

This summer’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission was against contentious as Japan and other pro-whaling nations squared off against anti-whaling nations that saw Japan threatening to leave the organization.

Japan went to the IWC seeking approval to expand its research whaling, which is frequently criticized by environmentalists and anti-whaling nations as being little more than commercial whaling in disguise. In 2002, Japan caught 590 minke whales, 50 Byrde’s whales, 50 Sei whales and 10 sperm whales as part of its research whaling program.

Currently Japan is allowed to harvest 50 Minke whales in its coastal waters, and it sought approval to triple that quota to 150 whales. It also wanted to expand its research whaling program to include catching Byrde’s whales in the northwestern Pacific. Both proposals were turned down solid majorities of the anti-whaling countries.

The IWC did pass a non-binding resolution condemning Japan’s research whaling program and asking it to stop the practice. Japan said it would ignore the resolution.

Meanwhile, anti-whaling countries wanted to establish a new whale sanctuaries in the South Pacific and South Atlantic. Both proposals were blocked by Japan and other pro-whaling countries.

The IWC did manage to approve creation of a new conservation committee to look at ways to expand the IWC’s conservation activities. That angered Japan which threatened to withhold funding for the committee and elicited new threats from Japan to leave the IWC altogether. If it chose to do so, it would no longer be bound by IWC rules.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda was quoted by the Financial Times of London as complaining that the creation of the conservation committee, “goes against the basic goals of the IWC. The issue must be approached from the viewpoint of conservation and use.”

Meanwhile, Iceland continued to move forward with plans to start its own research whaling program modeled on Japan’s program, which further threatens the continuing ban on commercial whaling.


Hunt fails to ease frustrations. Hans Greimel, Associated Press, July 10, 2003.

IWC blocks Japan bid to triple coastal whale-hunting quota. Japan Times, June 20, 2003.

Dead porpoises disrupt Berlin whaling meeting. Reuters, June 19, 2003.

Japan helps block proposals for new whale sanctuary. Bayan Rahman and Hugh Williamson, Financial Times (London), June 18, 2003.

Saving the whale, again. Syndey Morning Herald, June 18, 2003.

Japanese whaling bid blocked. The Daily Telegraph (London), June 19, 2003.

Gov’t intends to continue ‘research whaling.’ Japan Times, June 19, 2003.