Norway slaughtered at least 580 whales during the 2022 whaling season, which starts in April and usually ends in August. That’s the highest number in six years, according to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).
Whales are shot with grenade harpoons, which can cause the animals to suffer for as long as 25 minutes before dying, AWI said.
Norway, Japan and Iceland are the only three countries in the world that still allow commercial whale hunting. Of the three, Noway kills the most whales. In February, Iceland announced its plan to end whaling in 2024 as demand for whale meat declines.
A 2021 survey showed that 6 of 10 Norwegians disapprove of whale hunting. According to a poll commissioned by Norway’s largest animal protection organization NOAH, AWI and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), only 2% of Norwegians eat whale meat often.
With its domestic demand for whale meat going down, Norway relies on Japan to keep its head above water, Kate O’Connell, marine wildlife consultant for AWI, said. “Already this year, 226 tons of whale meat have been shipped to Japan.”
“The catch must be discontinued,” Siri Martinsen, veterinarian and head of NOAH, said. “This year, the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment produced a report which shows that we have very poor knowledge of the minke whale population. This too should justify an end to whaling.”
“Many Norwegians have been misled for decades by propaganda from the whalers suggesting that they need to kill whales because they eat too many commercially valuable fish,” Vanessa Williams-Grey, campaign coordinator at WDC, said. “In fact, research over the last ten years shows that the more whales we have, the better it is for marine ecosystems.”
Krill are tiny sea creatures that look similar to shrimp and feed on phytoplankton. Krill are the primary source of food for hundreds of different animals, including whales, fish, seals, penguins, albatrosses, petrels, squid and many others.
Whales are the largest consumer of krill and small fish. When whales were killed in large numbers by commercial whaling, an increase in small fish and krill was expected. But the opposite happened.
The loss of whales from the ecosystem caused a substantial loss in krill and small fish volumes. This contradiction became known as the krill paradox. The science behind it is that whale poop increases phytoplankton, the main food source for krill.
International opposition to whaling remains strong, especially now that there’s new evidence on the importance of whales to the ecosystem.