Norway, which conducts commercial hunts under a formal objection it had lodged to an IWC moratorium introduced 30 years ago, took 736 minke whales in 2014, according to official numbers, compared to Japan's 196 -- 81 minke, 25 Bryde's whales and 90 sei whales.
With a dwindling appetite for whale meat in Norway, as in Iceland, much of the Norwegian catch is exported to Japan, and some used as animal feed, said Sandra Altherr of Pro Wildlife.
"Commercial whaling and trade is ongoing, and Norway is a huge part of that," she said. "But we don't see any diplomatic measures on Norway."
At the 66th meeting of the IWC, held in Slovakia, Norway was accused of “undermining the IWC ban on commercial whaling” in a joint report from Pro Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and OceanCare. The report, ‘Frozen in Time: How Modern Norway Clings to Its Whaling Past', also chronicles the rapid growth of Norway's whale trade.
“Over recent years Norway has silently become the world's number one whaling nation – killing more whales than Japan and Iceland combined," Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson for OceanCare, said.
Pro Wildlife pointed out that a Norwegian company recently shipped 195 metric tonnes of whale meat to Japan in what the group said was “the largest export of whale products to Japan by Norway since the moratorium.”
Focus on Japan
At the IWC conference, Japan pleaded with the world's whaling watchdog to allow small hunts by coastal communities, arguing that for three decades these groups had been unjustly barred from a traditional source of food.
As in other years that the issue has come up, Japan's ambitions were backed by fellow whalers Norway and Iceland, and vehemently opposed by the United States, Europe, Australia and others.
All whaling other than for aboriginal subsistence or for scientific research is banned under the IWC moratorium.
"There is this perception that we are asking (for the) total lifting of the moratorium, that is not the case," Japan's commissioner to the IWC, Joji Morishita told delegates. “We are just asking for a small quota based on science, and of particular species in particular water. That's it."
Japan seeks a quota for minke whales in the West Pacific, and argues that stock numbers can sustain small hunts. The takings would be "exclusively for local consumption" by four coastal communities, it said.
Morishita urged other nations to look beyond their "principled position against whaling under any circumstances" in the quest for a compromise on this and other deeply divisive whaling questions.
Not bad vs good
"It's not like one side is bad and one side is good. This is not a dichotomy or a black and white situation," the commissioner said.
Along with Norway and Iceland, which argued the IWC was "held hostage" by anti-whalers, Japan's position was also supported by Russia.
"I think that we all have to remember that those four communities in Japan that have been asking for quota, they have a 5,000-year history of whaling," said Russia's deputy IWC commissioner, Valentin Ilyashenko. "Our task is not only to conserve biodiversity but also to conserve culture and traditions."
The European Union and United States spoke out strongly against the proposal.
"We can only reiterate our strong support for the maintenance of the global moratorium on commercial whaling and our serious concerns about the impact of small type coastal whaling on whales," the Dutch commissioner Roel Feringa, said on behalf of the EU bloc.