Norway’s commercial whaling season opened Monday with opponents claiming the biggest hunt in nearly a decade will simply increase a glut of unsold whale meat and blubber.
Norway resumed its commercial whale hunts three years ago, despite a global ban, and sells the meat for human consumption. Ignoring protests, it raised this year’s quota to 425 minke whales from 232 last year.
“This is absurd,” said Katrin Glatz Brubakk of Greenpeace Norway. “What is going to happen to all these whales? Even with last year’s quota, they didn’t manage to sell all the meat.”
She also accused Norway of setting hunting quotas without really knowing how many minke whales there are.
A year ago, Norway cut its previous estimate of 86,700 minke whales to 69,600. A month later, it raised the estimate to 76,000. Now it says there are at least 110,000 minke whales in waters off its coast.
Norway rejects a nonbinding 1986 ban imposed by the International Whaling Commission, saying minke whales are so plentiful that the populations must be controlled to protect fish stocks. It also says the hunt is essential to the economies of some coastal villages.
The hunts have caused demonstrations, boycott threats, confrontations on the high seas and sabotage against whaling boats.
As the first of 35 to 40 whaling boats left port, controversy spread to the industry itself.
Four whale meat buyers, accounting for 60 percent of last year’s sales, pulled out, refusing to pay the $1.85 per pound the hunters have demanded for whale meat, said Per Rolandsen of the Norwegian Fish Sales Association.
He blamed slow sales on middlemen who sell whale meat in stores for $10.50 to $14 per pound. An average 30-foot minke whale provides from 3,300 to 4,400 pounds of meat.
Rolandsen estimated Norway has 100 to 200 tons of blubber, once used for oil, stockpiled, with virtually no demand. Fearing international reaction, Norway has forbidden the export of whale meat and blubber.