Environmental campaigners have criticised Norway for killing hundreds of whales this year, despite what they say is dwindling interest in eating the meat.
Wildlife charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation said Norwegian whalers had killed more than 570 minke whales in the 2021 season, which it said was the highest number in five years.
The number killed is up from 503 whales last year, according to figures environmental groups have obtained from the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation.
“Killing hundreds of minke whales is utterly inexcusable, especially given the essential role they play in our oceans," said Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager at the conservation group.
“Whales are our allies in the battle against climate change.
“Coming only days after the record slaughter of dolphins off the Faroe Islands and in the midst of the climate and species extinction crises, as well as a global pandemic, it is shameful ...”
The group said the way whales ate, defecated, migrated and dived circulated essential nutrients through the seas, helping to maintain a healthy marine system that stores carbon.
As the hunting season ends, polling commissioned by Noah, Norway’s largest animal protection charity, the Animal Welfare Institute and WDC suggests falling interest among Norwegians in eating whale meat.
The poll of more than 1,000 Norwegians by Respons Analyse found only 2 per cent ate whale meat often, down from 4 per cent in 2019, and no-one under the age of 35 said they ate it frequently.
Just under a quarter of those questioned said they ate whale meat but only rarely, and 29 per cent said they had eaten it a long time ago.
The polling also highlighted concerns over how the hunts are conducted, and support for prohibiting whaling in areas that are important for tourism.
“Live whales can play an important role in Norway’s tourism economy, as Iceland and Greenland have already recognised by creating sanctuaries for whales in areas that host responsible whale-watching and other ecotourism activities," said Susan Millward, director of AWI’s marine animal programme.
“We urge the new Norwegian government to listen to its citizens, and establish similar whaling-free zones, especially in key tourist areas such as Svalbard and Finnmark.”
The Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, said: “We are experiencing increased interest in Norwegian whale meat.
"The quotas on minke whale are set on the basis of scientific knowledge approved by the Scientific Committee of the IWC, and are caught in a sustainable manner.
“In addition, whales are healthy and good food, and Norwegians want minke whales on their dinner plate."