Just weeks after Iceland indicated it is moving away from cruel whaling, Norway’s government has announced that its whalers can kill hundreds of minke whales in 2022.
Bjørnar Skjæran, Norway’s new Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs has set a quota (numbers that can be killed) of 917 minke whales for the upcoming whaling season, slightly down on last year.
The reduction in the quota number is largely meaningless. Full quotas have not been taken in recent years but hundreds of whales are still slaughtered, often taking a long time to die. 2021 saw 575 minke whales killed, marking the deadliest whaling season since 2016. (503 whales were killed in 2020, and 429 in 2019).
Norway’s government allows the minke whale hunts to go ahead under an 'objection' to the global ban on commercial whaling, and whalers continue to carry out this slaughter despite falling demand for whale meat in the country and a decline in the number of boats hunting each year. Last year shocking new documents revealed that dwindling domestic demand for the meat means it is sold for dog food or just dumped into the sea. A recent poll commissioned by WDC, AWI, and NOAH found that only 2 percent of Norwegians actually ate whale meat often.
Announcing the new quotas, Minister Skjæran claimed that criticism of the hunts as being irresponsible, indefensible, or that the stocks are not viable, were not true and that the minke whale population is in ‘good condition’.
WDC’s whaling campaigner , Vanessa Williams-Grey disputes the Minister's excuses for the hunts. ‘It is hard to know how the Norwegian government can claim minke whale stocks are in "good condition" given the number of unknowns. Population size is only one variable and "fitness" (immune and reproductive health, etc) quite another. Given the myriad threats these whales face in our ocean, it is likely that they are not in "good condition".
The Minister also attempted to justify the hunts by claiming that the whales eat large amounts of fish that are food for other species, including humans, and so Norwegian whaling contributes to balance in the marine ecosystems.
‘The fact is that whales don´t reduce fish populations - they help maintain them. Overfishing is caused by humans not whales, says Williams -Grey. ‘The reality is that before the whales were exploited, the ocean was perfectly able to support that load, the main problem is given by the overexploitation of the fishing resources by the industrial fleets.’
We know whales play a big part in maintaining a healthy ocean and so help fight climate breakdown. All ecosystems, and in turn the planet, are kept in balance by a connected and thriving nature. Removing parts of ecosystems, in this case whales, results in a negative change of balance and a reduction in overall resilience. We need to restore whale populations not diminish them.