(AFP) – Feb 7, 2008
OSLO (AFP) — Norway on Thursday authorised its whalers to harpoon 1,052 whales in the 2008 season, the same number as last year when whalers only caught half their quota.
"The quota is within an interval that researchers believe provides satisfactory security in regards to protecting the minke whale stocks," the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs said in a statement.
Apart from Iceland, Norway is the only country to authorise commercial whaling despite an international ban in place since 1986.
Japan also allows whaling, but in accordance with a loophole in the global whaling moratorium claims the culls are for research purposes only.
Norway has significantly increased its quotas in recent years, arguing that stocks of minke whales are abundant in the North Atlantic. However, whalers have consistently failed to meet their quotas since 2001.
During last year's whaling season, which usually stretches from the beginning of April to the end of August, whalers harpooned only 592 of the sea mammals.
Whalers attribute the low catch numbers to an inadequate geographical distribution of the quotas, soaring fuel prices, difficult weather conditions and a crunch in processing and distribution channels.
To make the catch easier, authorities have increased to 900 the number of culls that can be made along the Norwegian coast and around the Svalbard archipelago in the Barents Sea, while decreasing the quotas further out to sea.
Animal-protection campaigners meanwhile claim the whalers failure to fill their quotas is due to declining consumer interest in whale meat, which used to be a cheap staple of the Norwegian diet.
Greenpeace on Thursday said it "regretted" the Norwegian government's decision to maintain the whaling quota.
"Despite marketing campaigns for whale meat, there are no indications that the demand for whale meat is going anywhere other than down," the environmental protection group said in a statement.
"The government's adherence to whaling is pure symbolic politics, giving the appearance of supporting embattled coastal communities on a high profile issue," it added.
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