Norwegian buyer declares whaling moratorium after IWC ban holds
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2006:
OSLO, ST. KITTS, TOKYO– The Norwegian fish wholesaling
firm Norges Rafisklag on July 7, 2006 asked whalers to stop killing
whales because there is insufficient market for whale meat to warrant
more whaling this year.
“We don’t have buyers for more whales than those already
shot. Therefore we are sending out a message to halt the hunt,”
Norges Rafisklag spokesperson Hermod Larsen told NRK, the Norwegian
national broadcasting company.
Larsen is the Norges Rafisklag regional director for Lofoten,
the hub of the Norwegian whaling industry. Norges Rafisklag is the
only major buyer of whale carcasses.
“It’s not possible now, for those who don’t have their own
[storage] facilities, to shoot more whales for the time being,”
Norwegian whalers had landed only 444 of the quota of 1,052 minke
whales unilaterally allocated for 2006 by the Norwegian government,
which has for 12 years defied the 20-year-old International Whaling
Commission moratorium on commercial whaling.
Other whaling industry representatives hinted that Norges
Rafisklag might resume buying whales after the three-week national
summer holiday ends on August 7.
Norges Rafisklag likewise suspended whale-buying in July
1999, after Greenpeace documented that the company still had frozen
whale meat in storage from 1986, the first year of the IWC
“Norway dramatically increased its whaling quota this year to
make a political statement, but that is backfiring now,” commented
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society spokesperson Sue Fisher.
“They did not get their quota last year either,” said Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, “and the reason
is simple. There are just not as many whales in the North Atlantic
as the Norwegians consistently claim that there are.”
Norges Rafisklag suspended whaling this year three days after
“Eager Norwegian whalers gunned down a whale before the eyes of
tourists out on a whale-watching expedition,” reported Nina Berglund
of the Aftenposten English web desk.
“Around 80 tourists paid to go out on a whale-watching boat
from Andenes, in northern Norway,” Berglund explained. “Called
‘whale safaris’ locally, whale-watching has become an increasingly
popular tourist attraction in recent years.”
In Norway, as in Japan, the whaling industry is sustained
and subsidized largely in tribute to the political clout of the
fishing industry, allied with nationalists whose voting strength is
in socially conservative coastal regions. The fishing industry fears
the precedent that the IWC whaling moratorium sets for international
restrictions on exploitation of sea life. Nationalist politicians
exploit the social conservatism of fishing communities whose economic
base has collapsed with declining fish stocks.
Japanese whaling is in truth an industry imported from
Norway, politics and all, Watson noted in June, during the 58th
annual IWC meeting in St. Kitts.
“A few isolated Japanese villages had killed whales in the
past, but Japan as a whole demonstrated very little interest in
whaling until a man named Jura Oka learned whaling and purchased the
equipment from the Norwegians,” Watson explained. “Modern whaling
began in Japan in 1898. That year the first Japanese whaling
company, with one vessel, killed three whales. The harpooner and
crew were hired Norwegians. The company failed and Oka started a new
company. Again the company employed a Norwegian harpooner and crew.”
Eventually the Japanese whaling industry eclipsed the Norwegian model.
Japan has reportedly now spent more than $400 million trying
to break the IWC moratorium by providing extensive foreign aid to
mostly small nations, mostly in the Caribbean and Africa, who join
the IWS and vote with Japan and Norway.
Of the 15 nations who formed the IWC in 1946, 14 favor the
moratorium, but the membership is now up to 70, including eight
completely landlocked Japanese allies.
“There must be whales somewhere in Mongolia,” said Watson.
“Maybe some Goby Dick is at this very moment lurking in the depths of
Breaking the whaling moratorium would require a 75% majority,
but changing the IWC rules to help bring that about could begin with
a simple majority. With the aid of the landlocked block, Japan
hoped to have a simple majority this year.
However, “Their two chances at making direct changes to the
IWC were beaten when the whalers failed to obtain either an
alteration to the agenda or secret ballots,” summarized Andrew Darby
of the Melbourne Age. “The third and fourth votes–a plea for a
coastal whaling quota for Japan and condemnation of the Southern
Ocean Sanctuary–were also lost.”
The apparent pro-whaling majority going into the meeting was
upset by the timely appearance of an Israeli delegation and the
unexpected defection of Belize from the Japanese-led faction.
“Thousands of years after a whale saved Jonah, Israel has
returned the favor by helping to save the whales,” observed Watson.
Watson credited longtime Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
member Bruce Foerster, who owns the Jaguar Reef Lodge in Belize,
with winning over Belize.
“Then Togo paid [dues for voting rights], a Senegalese delegate
arrived, and the numbers tilted Japan’s way,” Darby wrote.
Picked up Los Angeles Times staff writer Carol J. Williams,
“St. Kitts and Nevis, host of this year’s IWC meeting, joined five
other Caribbean countries and about 20 developing states in Africa
and the South Pacific to give Japan a one-vote majority on a
non-binding resolution,” that called the whaling ban unnecessary and
asked the IWC to end it.
“The passing of the St. Kitts and Nevis declaration has
changed the dynamics of the organization and is likely to cause all
parties to reassess their approach towards regulated whaling,”
claimed Eugene Lapointe, a career defender of hunting, trapping,
whaling, sealing, and the elephant ivory trade, who now heads the
IWMC World Conservation Trust, formerly called the International
Wildlife Management Consortium.
“As of this week, all parties have to negotiate from a
position of equality,” Lapointe told Stephen Collinson of Agence
“Japanese delegate Minoru Morimoto, who was elected vice
chair of the IWC, said the group ‘has now begun the process for
bringing its functions back on track as a resource management
organization,'” reported Washington Post staff writer Juliet
But other observers were less certain that much would change.
“The resolution was the first victory for the pro-whaling side since
the ban was enacted,” Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times
acknowledged. However, she added, “The vote has no real influence
on whaling because Japan and Iceland exploit a loophole that allows
whaling in the name of scientific research. Norway ignores the ban.
“Japan appeared reluctant to test its slender majority,”
Williams continued. “Japanese delegate Joji Morishita said that in
the interest of avoiding further polarization, he had decided
against calling for a vote on eliminating the IWC conservation
committee. Tokyo also backed off a threat to strip Greenpeace of
Following the IWC meeting, “Japan held talks attended by 37
nations, outside the IWC umbrella, to discuss a meeting it plans to
hold before next year’s annual talks on how to implement a process it
calls ‘normalization,'” Collison wrote. “Critics fear this may be
the start of a bid to split from the IWC.”
Said Kitty Block of Humane Society International, “I
envision their plan to be to set up a parallel organization, a
whalers’ club. What they want to do is have their own association
that doesn’t have conservation measures, and is not transparent.”
The High North Alliance, formed in 1991 by the Lofoten
Regional Council and Norwegian Whalers’ Union, already serves
somewhat the same purpose, but the 12 member agencies represent only
Norway, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland.
Assessed Jonathan Leake and Julian Ryall of the London Sunday
Times, “Japan is now likely to pursue expansion of its ‘scientific’
whaling program. It has already announced that it will increase the
number of whales it catches within the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary
to 935 minke whales plus 10 fin whales in the current year. Tokyo
does not recognise the sanctuary. Over the next two years Japan
plans to kill similar numbers of minkes, plus 40 more fin whales and
50 humpbacks,” considered endangered by the IWC.
“Japanese inshore fishermen also kill thousands of dolphins
and porpoises, including an estimated 10,000 Dalls dolphins–each
year,” Leake and Ryall noted.
But Japanese whalers are dealing with the same market
realities as Norway.
“The major problem for advocates of whaling is that a third
of the harvest of ‘scientific research’ remains unsold,” wrote
Temple University of Japan director of Asian studies Jeff Kingston in
Japan Times. “That is why whale meat is being processed into dog
treats. Declining whale consumption preceded the moratorium on
whaling, and now very few Japanese are eating it even though it is
widely available at reasonable prices,” Kingston said.
“Japan’s taxpayers are paying for this mind-boggling
boondoggle,” Kingston continued, “subsidizing research whaling
expeditions that gain international opprobrium while funding a
research institute that produces little research and markets whale
meat that most Japanese don’t want. The Institute of Cetacean
Research is in the business of promoting whaling and orchestrates a
media campaign to convince Japanese that whaling is part of their
national identity, but to little avail.”