Subject: Case Study: Norway whaling produces blubber

Michael Williamson (
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 08:52:38 -0400 (EDT)

What is this problem associated with whaling?
What can they do?
What should they NOT do?
How can this problem be alleviated?

FEATURE - Norway whaling produces mountain of blubber

    By Stella Bugge
     LOFOTEN ISLANDS, Norway, June 14 (Reuter) - There is a
mountain of blubber from harpooned whales growing in Norway.
     The Norwegians don't eat the blubber, just the meat.
     But the government, already under fire from abroad for the
controversial whale hunt itself, does not allow the blubber to
be thrown away for fear of being accused of wastefulness.
     Oslo also bans the whalers from exporting hundreds of tonnes
of blubber because of the negative reactions that could bring
from foreign governments and environmental groups.
     "It's so stupid," said Ulf Ellingsen, head of a processing
plant on the northern Skrova Island, where more than 70 percent
of Norwegian whale catches are landed.
     "Not exporting does not bring the whale alive again."
     Some 300 tonnes of blubber from minke whales -- the species
hunted by Norway -- are stored in freezers on Skrova and other
islands in the Lofoten archipelago.
     Norway resumed commercial catches of minke whales in 1993 in
defiance of a global moratorium by the International Whaling
Commission (IWC).
     While there is no market for blubber in the country, eager
Japanese customers would pay 30 million Norwegian crowns ($4.6
million) for the Skrova blubber mountain alone, Ellingsen told
     The blubber, used in Japan for cooking, burdens his books
with one million crowns in annual storage costs, he said.
     The mountain can only grow as this year's whale quota totals
425 mammals, almost twice the number harpooned last year. A
5,000-kilo minke whale -- the species being hunted by Norway --
holds about 700 kilos (1,500 lb) of blubber.
     "It's illegal to throw it (the blubber) away. It's illegal
to export it," Ellingsen said. "The pile of blubber is getting
bigger and bigger and soon the government will have to do
     Foreign Ministry spokesman Ingvard Havnen said Norway has no
plans to lift the self-imposed export ban on whale products.
     "We don't think, in the current situation, that lifting the
export ban would contribute to enhanced understanding of
Norwegian whaling," Havnen said.
     Oslo is still being criticised abroad for catching minke
whales, but believes it has now won greater international
acceptance for the traditional hunt in the northeast Atlantic
off Lofoten Islands and other barren places.
     Norway's annual whale hunt is carried out by local fishermen
in need of an income and cannot be compared with large-scale
industrial whaling of the past, Norwegian officials say.
     "International public opinion is much less of a problem
than just a few years ago," said Norway's whaling commissioner
Kaare Bryn. "The public is more knowledgeable than was the case
some years ago."
     Oslo found itself in a storm of protests, including a
short-lived, inefficient trade boycott call by environmental
group Greenpeace following the resumption of whaling.
     In 1994, a ship from theradical anti-whaling group Sea
Shepherd clashed with the Norwegian coast guard and caused
massive media attention.
     But no spectacular protests have taken place since the
whaling season began in mid-May.
     Greenpeace spokeswoman Katrin Brubakk refused to say if any
anti-whaling campaign would be carried out this summer.
     "We consider what we think are the most effective means,"
she said. "Sometimes it is better to protest one way rather
than the other. We have made it clear what we think. Norway
violates all rules and regulations on international
     "The Norwegian government really wants us to believe the
acceptance has grown, but people in the world are outraged at
what the Norwegians are doing," Brubakk said.
     The United States said prior to this year's hunt it deeply
opposed commercial whaling because it had driven some stocks to
near extinction.
     Washington believes the process by which Norway calculated
its 1996 quota lacks adequate international oversight because it
has not been considered by the IWC's scientific committee or by
the commission itself.
     German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, striking a similar
chord, called on Norway to do its utmost to protect "the
already seriously depleted whale stocks."
     But Oslo argues that the northeast Atlantic minke whale
stock is growing and that a panel of scientists from the IWC
pegged the population at 112,000 this year compared with
Norway's estimate of 75,000 last year.
     Unlike threatened species such as the giant blue whale,
minke whales can safely be hunted without any risk of
extinction, Norway says.
     "It has now been proven that the stock of northeast
Atlantic minke whale is of a size where commercial whaling is
acceptable," Bryn said.
     Norway and Japan -- the other whaling nation -- will argue
that the 10-year-old moratorium be lifted at an annual IWC
meeting in Aberdeen later this month.
     Bryn said, however: "We have no illusions that the IWC will
allowcommercial catches this year."
  ($1-6.539 Norwegian Crown)