The whale hunting season in Norway has begun on the back of disturbing announcements from the country’s government stating the number of whales that can be killed (quota) will increase, whilst measures in place to protect whale welfare will be removed.
The number of whales that the government will allow hunters to slaughter will go up to 1,000. At the same time monitoring regulations will be eased with the onboard ‘blue box’ (or ‘ferdskriver’) that records vessel position, engine speed, direction, harpoon shots, and the weight of the whale brought on deck, now no longer required on hunting vessels.
The Norwegian Fisheries Minister Bjørnar Skjæran sought to justify the move by announcing that ‘Norway is far ahead in terms of effective catching methods and animal welfare.’. However, Norway’s own research does not support his view. A 2018 report revealed that almost 20% percent of the whales shot by grenade tipped harpoons suffered between 6 and 25 minutes before they eventually died. Many of the hunted whales are pregnant females.
‘With this decision there are now virtually no reliable control mechanisms for Norwegian whaling’, says Astrid Fuchs, WDC’´s head of policy and strategy. ‘Given the huge welfare issues and lack of welfare regulations it is inconceivable as to why the government made the decision to further ease controls.’
Bizarrely, Skjæran also remarked that ‘“If we are to achieve the UN's sustainability goals, we must eat more food from the sea, not less. Norwegian whaling is a small but important contribution to healthy and local seafood.’ He added that ‘whales eat significant amounts of fish that are food for other species, including humans.’
These comments are in sharp contrast to international efforts to protect whales and increase their numbers to help fight the biodiversity and climate crisis. Science shows the positive ecological role that whales play in the ocean.
The misinformation around whales being detrimental to fish populations is also contrary to scientific research. The opposite is true. Increased whale numbers result in increased ecosystem productivity, which supports larger overall fish populations.
So far, 37 minke whales have already been killed in the opening weeks of the hunt season.