By Dave Armstrong
729 may not seem a lot, but this is whales Norwegians are killing. The annual catch in Norway has increased again, after good weather for whaling at sea and warm temperatures in the north of the country. People there are being encouraged to barbecue whale meat even though they haven't done that for generations. The popularity seemed to last only between the 1930s and 1950s, although it can be blamed on ancient traditions.
The Scandinavian whalers caught 590 whales last year, and 464 in 2012, mainly rorqual whales such as the minke, Balaenoptera acutorostrata. By comparison, Iceland caught only 296 minkes in the previous 6 years between 2006 and 2012. Apart from Norway, only Iceland, the Azores and Japan still hunt whales, using "scientific research" and traditional protein sources for indigenous people as completely irrelevant excuses.
One of the few saving graces for Norwegians is that they have a fixed quota of 1286, far above the annual catch. However, they are attempting to build business with a low demand from their naturally resistant population. The entrepreneurial spirit seems a little out of place even though the minkes' populations are classified as being of least concern. Some of the whales caught could be more threatened, as large fin whales and humpbacks are quite rare in some locations in the North Atlantic. Apart from the extreme situation in Japanese Antarctic whaling, many "fishermen" simply use small boats and remain close to their coasts. Greenpeace in Norway are understandably on the trail, but don't believe this trend in catches will continue, given Norwegian tastes.
We can all appreciate tradition and even demand for meat, but essentially the well-fed countries must appreciate that extra proteins on their table are totally out of place as long as bushmeat hunters and overpopulated nations still maintain great pressures on animal life and sheer survival in Africa, Asia and South America.