IN THE NEWS: On MAR 7, 2018
Norway has angered environmentalists by announcing a 28 percent increase of its annual whaling quota to 1,278 whales in an attempt to revive the ailing, controversial industry. In recent years Norway's whalers have failed to catch the quotas set by Oslo and the number of whaling boats has plummeted. Its government hopes that by raising the quota, more whalers will take to the waters.
"I hope the quota and the merging of fishing zones will be a good starting point for a good season for the whaling industry," said fisheries minister Per Sandberg in a statement.
However, UK-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation slammed the rise as a "provocative and unnecessary move".
Norway is one of just two countries in the world to authorise whaling. The other is Iceland. Japan is also a notorious whale-hunting nation, but officially it kills the marine mammals for the purposes of scientific research. In reality, much of the whale meat ends up being eaten: whale is relatively commonplace in restaurants.
Norway, whose whaling today is limited to the Minke whale, which it kills using explosive penthrite grenade harpoons, refuses to abide by a 1986 international hunting moratorium, which it formally opposed.
After a brief pause, Norway resumed its Minke whale hunt in 1993, saying that it considered stocks sufficiently high. According to Oslo, there are now more than 100,000 Minkes in Norwegian waters.
The International Whaling Commission has repeatedly passed resolutions calling for Norway (along with Japan and Iceland) to return to the international fold, but the organisation has no means to force compliance.
Yet despite the resumption, the number of Norwegians taking up whaling is in freefall.
From around 350 whaling vessels in 1950, the numbers plunged to just 11 in 2017, almost fifty per cent down from the previous year.
The number of whales killed has also dropped from 660 in 2015 to 432 last year. In 2017, the the quota was 999 - the "lowest in many years", according to Mr Sandberg.
Whaling professionals say that their failure to meet the annual quotas is due to insufficient capacity of whale meat processing plants and rising fuel prices.
Perhaps the biggest issue, however, is that the whales are increasingly elusive, as they swim to colder waters, which are increasingly remote because of global warming.
Whaling is an emotive subject in Norway, which started hunting the huge, intelligent marine animals as early as the ninth century, but today precious few in the Scaninavian country eat its meat.
Animal rights activists argue that local politicians and fishing authorities refuse to see the drop is down to a lack of consumer interest.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation told the Telegraph: "The popularity of whale meat is falling and the hunts rely on state subsidies. The government is constantly searching for new markets to exploit, with young people and tourists being major targets at music festivals such as Bukta, Træna or Inferno Festival, with products like whale burgers or whale sushi.
"There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. Many die a slow, painful death. This slaughter is unnecessary, uneconomical unquestionably cruel and pointless."
Truls Gulowsen, the head of Greenpeace Norway, said: "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."
He added: "Norwegian whaling belongs to the past, is only maintained for narrow political reasons and should be phased out as quickly as possible."