Norway Norway suspends whalingNorway, one of the two countries that openly defy the IWC ban on commercial whaling, has suspended this year’s whale hunt mid-season after catching less than half the quota of 885 whales. The suspension coincides with this week’s annual IWC meeting in Portugal, but is not linked to the meeting or any adjacent negotiations. Instead, a lack of demand in the Norwegian distribution chain is cited as the reason behind the surprising deferment.

The number of whales killed so far is enough to meet the known demand,” said Willy Godtliebsen, head of sales at the Norwegian Fishermen’s Sales Organisation (NFSO). “They may resume the hunt later if new buyers turn up.”

According to NFSO marketing director Lise Mangseth, the suspension is an effect of the current financial crisis. The financial situation has dissuaded processing plants from freezing and stocking the meat the way they normally do, in order to save money.

More generally, [the suspension is due to] organisational problems rather than a problem of demand,” Mangseth said. “The whalers are such small actors and the volumes from the hunt are so limited that the distribution chains don’t really want to invest in their product and there are no marketing campaigns as there are for other food products“.

She also claimed that it isn’t unusual for whalers to take a break during the season.

Greenpeace are interpreting the suspension as a sign of waning consumer demands for whale meat.

If they don’t start the hunt again later this season, 2009 will be the ‘worst’ year for whaling since Norway resumed commercial whaling”, Greenpeace spokesman Jo Kuper said.

Norway resumed whaling in 1993, despite international protests. When Norwegian whalers were asked to suspend their hunt on Tuesday this week, 350 Minke whales had been harpooned since the start of the whaling season in April. Normally, the hunt would continue until October.