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Outrage as Norway’s government says its whalers are ‘essential workers’

If you are able to help with a donation it would mean the world right now:

Humpback breaching

I’m writing from my desk in the corner of my dining room, where I’m hot desking most days with my 12 year-old son. His school has been closed for several weeks and I’m juggling home schooling (and switching off the XBox!) with home working. My husband has been furloughed and my elder son can’t return to university next term. There are many challenges for us all: observing the lockdown means that shopping is tricky and I’m sad that I can’t visit my elderly parents across town. But we’re also fortunate in many respects: so far, we’re healthy and I’m able to continue my work for Whale and Dolphin Conservation and so we willingly stand alongside other families and individuals all over the world.  

Staying at home is our contribution to the global effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

But this means that many businesses are struggling, including of course, those reliant on tourism. The pandemic has hit whale watching hard. I’ve been in touch with various operators around the world and their report is invariably the same: they’ve been badly impacted by the virus and the resulting travel bans.  Cancelled flights means no tourists and this, plus the need to safeguard their crews, has forced most companies to cancel trips for the foreseeable future. This is a real blow, since whale watching, as long as it is conducted responsibly, is a great means of introducing people to whales and dolphins, inspiring both admiration and advocacy.

Whale research has also been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. After a record number of gray whale deaths along the Pacific Coast, scientists in California had been intending to monitor this year’s migration in the hope of discovering what is precipitating the die-offs. Instead they, alongside whale researchers and citizen scientists the world over, have been grounded.

Gray whale
A gray whale breaches © Tim Stenton

Struggling to find any positives, I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that fewer boats on the water would at least translate to a cleaner and more peaceful ocean and therefore, some much-needed respite for whales and dolphins, allowing them to quietly get on with their lives.  Bearing in mind the crucial role the great whales in particular play in our ocean - helping to provide up to 50% of our oxygen - I felt happy at the notion that giving the whales some 'time out' would ultimately benefit each and every one of us.

But not a bit of it! It turns out that, whilst most of us have adjusted our daily routines to help curb the spread of the virus and support our health services - whatever the personal sacrifice - whalers are still going out with impunity!

 And worse, their governments have even awarded them the accolade of ‘essential workers’ and continue to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise this cruel and unnecessary industry.

I’m outraged that, whilst the Norwegian whale watch operators are respecting the lockdown, the country’s minke whalers are intent on ‘business as usual’ and have awarded themselves a quota of nearly 1,300 whales.  Last year, they harpooned 429 minkes, shipping much of the meat to Japan (whose whalers are also going out to sea), due to declining domestic demand.

minke whale
Norwegian whalers may kill nearly 1,300 minke whales

Most Norwegian people don’t even eat whale meat. In fact we polled Norwegians last year and found that only 4% of them eat it regularly. Like us, Norwegians are adjusting to a life of self-isolation and I imagine they would be pretty surprised to learn their government thinks killing whales is an essential way to spend their taxes at a time like this.

This year, the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate has even proposed relaxing the regulations around who can apply for a whaling licence, potentially allowing even more vessels to join the slaughter. Several whaling boats already left port on April 1st when the Norwegian hunting season opened, with the first minke landed the following day.

How can it be right that Norway’s whalers are encouraged to continue the slaughter when the rest of their nation has largely turned their back on whale meat and is in lockdown?  Be assured that at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we are committed to stopping this cruel slaughter – whether it’s from our office building or from our dining rooms and kitchen tables. With your support, we will continue to fight for the whales until the scourge that is whaling is ended for good and the gentle giants living in our ocean are allowed to live their lives in peace and freedom.

Are you in a position to help with a donation?

We know that not everyone can give right now. But if you can, every single gift, small or large will really help us continue our fight to stop whaling and end the cruel slaughter for good.

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