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Something Fishy About Norwegian Whale Export

Something Fishy About Norwegian Whale Export

Auckland, July 16, 2002: "The export from Norway to Iceland of eight tonnes of whale meat is a cynical but clumsy attempt to force the rest of the world to restart the international trade in whale products," said John Frizell, Greenpeace Whale Campaigner.

"It's hard to see how the exporter and importer will make a profit selling in a country that already has all the whale it wants and where the markets are brimming with locally produced lamb. This is not a commercial transaction - this is a political gambit."

An eight tonne shipment of meat and blubber equivalent to four or five minke whales, departed Norway on July 15, 2002, and is expected to dock soon in Iceland.

"Norway's exporters suggest that the moratorium on commercial whaling has led to a shortage of whale meat in Iceland," said Frizell, "This is not true. The Icelandic market already has more whale meat than it can cope with provided by minke whales accidentally caught in fishing nets." (1)

"This shipment is an attempt to undermine CITES, the international body that regulates trade in endangered species. (2) Norway wants to show that international trade in whale meat is underway in the hope that CITES member countries will cave in and legalise the trade."

Both Norway and Iceland have reservations to the CITES ban on international trade in the meat of minke whales. (3) A previous move by Norway to export whale products to Japan failed when Japanese health authorities refused to allow import because of the high levels of toxic chemicals found in the products and which exceed Japanese food safety limits. These toxic and persistent contaminants accumulate in whales over their lifetime because they are near the top of the food chain. (4)

A proposal has been submitted to CITES to end the ban on international trade in minke whale meat and is strongly supported by Norway and Iceland. CITES will consider the proposal at a meeting in Santiago, Chile from November three to 15.

For further information contact:

Robert Maletta, International Media Officer, Greenpeace International/Oceans Campaign Tel: (+31)-20-524-95-46 Mob: (+31)-6-212-969-20

Or John Frizell, Greenpeace Whale Campaigner, Greenpeace International Tel: (+44)-1273-476839

In New Zealand: Sarah Duthie 021 927301


1) It is estimated that between 15 and 25 minke whales are caught as bycatch in Icelandic fisheries every year and sold on the Icelandic market.

2) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) sets controls on the international trade and movement of animal and plant species that have been, or may be, threatened due to excessive commercial exploitation. Such species are identified by the Parties and listed in one of three appendices to the Convention, according to the level of control required.

3) Norway's actions undermines a 16 year old moratorium on commercial whaling set by the International Whaling Commission. Although Norway is a member of the IWC it objected to the moratorium and is not legally bound by it. Iceland left the IWC in 1992 in protest at the continuing application of the moratorium. At this year's IWC 54th Annual Meeting, Iceland tried to rejoin with a reservation to the moratorium, but was rejected by the Commission.

Japan and Norway have been discussing a resumption in whale trade following Norway's decision in January 2001 to lift its ban on whale exports. The Fisheries Agency of Japan applied to the Trade Ministry for permission to import whale meat from Norway, but as yet no shipments have been made.

4) A report in the British magazine, New Scientist (June 2, 2002), said that whale meat contains "astonishing" levels of mercury that "have even surprised the experts," with a single mouthful potentially enough to cause brain damage or harm pregnant mothers' unborn children. In addition, a report released on May 7, 2002 by Greenpeace revealed that whale blubber stored in Norway awaiting export to Japan is unfit for human consumption. The report written by independent scientists in Germany concludes that the samples analysed are contaminated with various halogenated-organic contaminants such as PCBs, DDT, and brominated flame retardants. "Evaluation of Contaminants in Meat and Blubber of Minke Whales", Dr. Martin Hassauer, Jan Oltmanns, Dr. Klaus Schneider of Forschungs- und Beratungsinstitut Gefahrstoffe GmbH.

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