Norwegian whalers killed the highest number of minke whales in five years this season, despite dwindling public demand for whale meat.
The Norwegian whaling season came to an official close earlier this week, with at least 575 whales killed and 14 vessels participating in the hunt, according to statistics provided by the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organization, Råfisklaget. Last year, whalers slaughtered 503 whales.
Only 2% of Norwegians eat whale meat, down from 4% in 2019, according to the recent poll. Among women surveyed, only 1% eat whale meat often, while no one under 35 indicated that they eat whale meat frequently. The survey of 1,037 Norwegians, ages 18 to 87, was conducted by Respons Analyse ASearlier this month.
“For an industry that has been struggling for years to build a domestic market for whale meat, these poll results are likely to be a painful blow,” said Susan Millward, director of AWI’s marine animal program, in a statement. “Despite millions of kroner spent on marketing programs over the past two decades, bankrolled, in part, by the Norwegian government, Norwegians are clearly not interested in eating whale meat.”
“This is nothing short of ecocide,” stated Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at WDC. “Killing hundreds of minke whales is utterly inexcusable. Whales are our allies in the battle against climate change.”
The poll revealed that Norwegian citizens have serious concerns about how the hunts are conducted. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that it is unacceptable that almost one in five whales do not die instantly when shot by a harpoon; 63% found it unacceptable that two-thirds of the whales killed are female, nearly half of whom are pregnant.
“Whales continue to endure excruciating deaths from grenade harpoons. It is completely unacceptable that 18% of hunted whales do not die instantly and are left to suffer,” noted Dr. Siri Martinsen, veterinarian with NOAH.
The survey also found that most Norwegians believe that whaling should be prohibited in areas that are important for tourism. This question received a particularly strong response from young people ages 18 to 24;71% felt that Norway should create “no-whaling“ zones similar to those established in Greenland and Iceland. In recent years, vessels in sight of tourists reportedly killed whales near Svalbard. In May, locals complained about whaling along the coast in Vardø, a popular tourism destination.
“Live whales can be important in Norway’s tourism economy, as Iceland and Greenland have already recognized by creating sanctuaries for whales in areas that host responsible whale watching and other ecotourism activities,” concluded Millward. “We urge the new Norwegian government to listen to its citizens, and establish similar whaling-free zones, especially in key tourist areas such as Svalbard and Finnmark.”