From: Doug Mellgren, Associated Press
Published April 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Norway's Disputed Whaling Season Opens with Higher Quota than Last Year

OSLO, Norway — The world's only commercial whaling season opened in Norway on Monday, with about 30 boats pursuing their highest quota since the country resumed the hunt in 1993.


Hunters are allowed by the government to harpoon 797 minke whales by Aug. 31. Last year, the quota was 670.


Norway is not bound by a worldwide ban imposed by the International Whaling Commission because the group's rules allow members to reject decisions they oppose. The ban was imposed to protect endangered species from extinction.


Japan and Iceland conduct research hunts allowed by the commission.


In the 1990s, the Norwegian whaling season became a battleground between whalers and activists. Whaling boats were sabotaged, pursued through the oceans and even boarded by protesters, some of whom were repelled by force.


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"Now all that is over. It's quiet," said Per Olav Rolandsen of the Norwegian Fish Sales Association.


The association, based at the center of the Norwegian whaling industry on the Lofoten Islands of the Arctic, closely monitors the hunt. Rolandsen said it was unclear when the first boats would leave port.


The boats typically leave quietly, fearing a resurgence of protests.


Norway claims minke whales, the smallest of the baleen whales at up to 30 feet long, are plentiful along its coast, can sustain a hunt and provide essential income to many coastal communities.


Greenpeace activist Truls Gulowsen, currently aboard the group's ship Esperanza in the Lofotens, said, "Increased whaling is no solution for the problems along the coast."


"Whaling takes the focus away from the real threats to the coast," including overfishing and the risk of oil industry pollution, Gulowsen said.


For the first time since the hunts resumed, the whaling boats -- usually small trawlers that fish the rest of the year -- will sail without a government inspector aboard to monitor that the kills with explosive-tipped harpoons are humane.


Halvard P. Johansen, of the Norwegian fisheries directorate, said this year boats will have instead sensors aboard to record hunt details, such as the number of harpoons fired from a cannon and the number of whales butchered.


Norwegians eat the red meat of whales, mainly as steaks but also as hamburgers and sausages.


The fatty blubber, once the most valuable part of the whale, is now worthless because there is no market for it in Norway and attempts to export it have failed, Rolandsen said.


The association already has destroyed hundreds of tons of stockpiled blubber and refuses to buy more, so whalers will dump the fat into the ocean, he said.


Source: Associated Press


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