Norway raises whaling quota, ready for exports
Oslo, which lifted a self-imposed ban on exports of whale products last year, said the whaling quota for this year had been set at 674 minke whales, compared with 549 last year.
"The whaling quota is set within the interval recommended to maintain full safety considering the protection of the minke whale population," Fisheries Minister Svein Ludvigsen said in a statement.
Norway, which has a long tradition of hunting minke whales with harpoons, stopped whaling in the mid-1980s in line with a ban by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
But arguing that the stock was plentiful, it resumed commercial whaling in 1993 despite a global moratorium by the IWC and protests from environmental groups. It lifted the ban on whale meat and blubber exports in January 2001.
"Exports have not started yet, but we are ready to start exporting as soon as the import country is ready," a Fisheries Ministry official said.
Norway's most likely trading partner for whaling products, Japan, has yet to open for imports. In preparation for trade, the two countries have agreed to standardise their respective databases on whale DNA to prevent smuggling.
"That database is now in operation," said Fisheries Ministry Director General Johan Williams. "But Japanese authorities have not yet opened for imports," he told Reuters, declining to speculate as to when Japan could start importing whale products.
In Norway, where whale used to be a common and cheap dinner, whale meat is now sold raw in sushi restaurants, fresh at fish markets and in supermarkets around the country.
The blubber, spurned by Norwegians, is frozen for export, most likely to Japan, where the outer fat of the minke whale is considered a healthy delicacy.