Whalers have for several years failed to meet the quotas set by Oslo and the number of whaling boats has plunged.
“I hope the quota and the merging of fishing zones will be a good starting point for a good season for the whaling industry,” Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg said in a statement.
Norway and Iceland are the only countries in the world to authorise whaling. Japan also hunts whales, but officially it does so for scientific research purposes, even though a large share of the whale meat ends up on dinner plates.
Norway does not consider itself bound by a 1986 international moratorium on whaling, to which it formally objected.
The Scandinavian country resumed its Minke whale hunt in 1993, judging stocks robust enough. According to Oslo, there are more than 100,000 Minkes in Norwegian waters.
Yet whaling appears to have fallen out of favour.
While there were around 350 whaling vessels in 1950, there were just 11 in 2017, a number almost halved from the previous year.
The number of whales killed has also plunged from 660 in 2015 to 432 last year — when the quota was 999 — the “lowest in many years”, according to Sandberg.
Whaling professionals have argued they fail to reach the annual quotas because of the whale meat processing plants' lack of capacity and high fuel prices. Also whales are now seeking out colder waters, which are increasingly distant because of global warming.
Animal rights activists say a lack of consumer interest is the reason for the decline.
“Greenpeace believes Norway should take the logical consequences of the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling, the widespread opposition to whaling, as well as the lack of local market for the products, and close down this unnecessary and outdated industry,” the head of Greenpeace Norway Truls Gulowsen said.
“Norwegian whaling belongs to the past, is only maintained for narrow political reasons and should be phased out as quickly as possible,” he said in an email to AFP.
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