Norway keeps whaling quota, draws ire
Fri Feb 8, 2008 1:59pm EST
By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway has set a commercial whaling quota of 1,052 minke whales in 2008, unchanged from last year, drawing criticism from environmental groups pressuring Oslo to join the international community and call off its hunts.
Norway is the only country to hunt the giant mammal commercially despite a two-decade-old moratorium by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Iceland stopped in 2007, citing a lack of markets for whale meat.
Last year Norway harpooned 597 minke whales, or 57 percent of its quota, and its kills have remained below quota ceilings since 2001, official figures show.
"We set quotas not according to what is likely to be caught but what is sustainable," Halvard Johansen, director at Norway's Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Ministry, told Reuters on Friday.
The ministry said in a statement that it sets quotas "conservatively," ensuring "complete safety in regard to conserving minke whale stock."
Japan also catches hundreds of minkes each year but says it is for scientific purposes. A European Union official on Friday however said photographs released by Australia of whales being killed illustrated the reality of Japanese hunting.
The photos showed an adult minke whale and her calf being towed up the rear ramp of a Japanese factory processing ship in Antarctic waters.
Norway opens whale-hunting seasonWhaling vessels have left Norway for the Barents Sea to open this year's whale-hunting season, defying an international moratorium and protests. The Norwegian government has set a quota of 670 minke whales for the season, which runs until 31 August.
The Scandinavian nation is the only country in the world that authorises whaling for commercial purposes.
Iceland and Japan are the only other nations to fish whales, though they claim to do so for scientific reasons.
Controversy has also focused on the manner in which the whales are killed.
Environmentalists say the grenade-tipped harpoons that explode inside the beast are unnecessarily cruel.
Whalers argue it is one of the quickest methods for killing a whale.
The first whaling vessels left Norway to hunt in the North Sea last week. But the main catches are made in the area of the North Atlantic known as the Barents Sea. BBC News
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Photo taken in Alta, Norway
Misplaced? Suggest new location