for Agence France-Presse on Dec. 13, 2008
Norway today authorised its whalers to harpoon 885 minke whales in 2009, a quota sharply down from previous years in what animal rights activists saw as a sign of consumers' growing disinterest for whale meat.
For the period 2006-2008, the quota was 1052 minke whales per year but whalers fell short each year, killing around half the allowed number, according to environmental group Greenpeace.
"The quota is a little lower than in 2008. This is linked to the fact that in 2009, we will be launching a new (stocks) management program, in which unused quotas can no longer be transferred from one year to another," the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate said.
The quota of 885 whales will be applied each year until 2013, the directorate said.
Whalers attribute the low catch numbers to an inadequate geographical distribution of the quotas, soaring fuel prices, difficult weather conditions and a crunch in processing and distribution channels.
In 2009, 750 minke whales can be harpooned along the Norwegian coasts and around the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, whalers' two preferred zones.
The rest of the quota must be hunted around the Jan Mayen island, located much further from the coast.
According to Greenpeace, the whalers' difficulties in filling the quota illustrates the lack of interest for whale meat.
"Despite marketing campaigns for whale meat, there are no indications that the demand for whale meat is going anywhere other than down," the organisation said.
"The government's adherence to whaling is pure symbolic politics, giving the appearance of supporting embattled coastal communities on a high profile issue," it said.
Apart from Iceland, Norway is the only country to authorise commercial whaling despite an international ban in place since 1986.