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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

Really, Norway, you want to kill even more whales though no one wants to eat them?


Norwegian Fisheries Minister, Per Sandberg, has confirmed that Norway has allocated itself a quota of 999 minke whales for the 2017 catchan increase of 119 whales on last year’s quota of 880.

Norwegian whalers hunt minke whales for commercial purposes, exploiting a loophole around the Norway’s ‘objection’ to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) global ban on commercial whaling and over the past decade, have killed between 464 – 736 minke whales each year. Indeed, some years, Norway has killed more whales than Iceland and Japan combined and these days, is the world´s biggest commercial whaling nation.

However, as Truls Soløy, leader of the Norwegian Whalers Association, admits “people in Norway do not eat whale… there are too few players on the buying side”. The simple fact is that, despite government subsidies and marketing campaigns, domestic demand for whale meat is declining, with young people especially regarding it as ‘old-fashioned’. Only last month, we reported that 5,000 boxes (around 60 tons) of minke whale meat donated by Myklebust Hvalprodukter (Myklebust Whale Products), one of the country’s largest whale meat processors and exporters, were given away. 

Efforts to export to Japan have also met with varying success.  Norway’s exports, which for many years had been very low,  have recently increased sharply and, since 2014, almost 375,000 kg of whale products have been exported to Japan. In early October 2016, almost 3,000 kg of Norwegian whale meat was exported to Japan, transiting at least three EU ports: Malta, Le Havre and Hamburg. Smaller exports have gone to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. However, in 2015, Norwegian whale meat  was dumped by Japan after routine safety tests discovered that it contained up to twice the permitted level of three potentially dangerous pesticides: aldrin, dieldrin and chlordane.

In addition to declining domestic demand and uncertainty around exports, since 2006, the whalers have routinely killed far fewer whales than quotas permit. In 2010 and 2012, for example, Norway’s whalers took only around a third of their self-allocated quota.

 So, why – when demand is down and catch levels, whilst undoubtedly high, still fall far below permitted levels – do quotas remain higher still? Part of the cynical response might be that Norway has long sought to justify its whaling as both ‘sustainable’ and necessary, wheeling out the same ‘whales eat fish and therefore must be culled to protect fish stocks and human fisheries’ arguments that we routinely hear from whaling nations, despite plentiful scientific evidence to the contrary.

This seemingly ludicrous situation is further compounded by the fact that, Norway continues to claim that it abides by the IWC’s scientific advice regarding the calculation of a sustainable whaling quota (a hypothetical advice due to the moratorium). In reality, Norway has, for years, used a far less conservative approach and awarded itself a much higher quota than deemed sustainable by the IWC.  

Given the latest evidence on how important whales are both to healthy oceans and fish stocks, as well as being our partners in the fight against climate change, Norway and the world’s remaining whalers would do well to consider this.

There simply are no ‘sustainable’ quotas and we, as a global community, should work together and do our utmost to conserve and protect whales. It is, after all, becoming increasingly clear that we need them more than they need us.