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Record kill, record quiet in Norway’s whale hunt this year

July 23, 1997

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway’s annual whaling season is coming to an end with a record-high kill, but a surprising lack of controversy.

Oyvind Rasmussen of the Ministry of Fisheries said Wednesday that the total number of minke whales killed when the season ends July 31 is likely to be 500 to 505 _ short of the limit of 580, but far more than last year’s 381.

Unlike previous years, no protesters have showed up to demonstrate against the whale hunt, although one boat was sabotaged before the season opened on May 2.

Norway resumed its commercial whale hunt five years ago in defiance of an International Whaling Commission ban. The best-known anti-whaling activist, Paul Watson, spent most of this year’s season in a Dutch jail.

He had been convicted in absentia in 1994 of vandalizing a whaling boat. Norway sought his extradition after he was arrested in the Netherlands in April, but a Dutch court rejected the request and instead ordered him held for 80 days _ the equivalent of the sentence he would have served in Norway.

Watson, a Canadian who heads the Sea Shepherd organization, is still wanted in Norway on charges of ramming a naval vessel during a whaling protest.

After his release, Watson vowed to sail straight north to Norway for protests, but has not been sighted.

Norway’s two main environmental organizations do not oppose the Norwegian minke whaling, agreeing that the population of minke whales is large enough to sustain the hunt.

Even the Norwegian branch of Greenpeace does not give priority to fighting whale hunting.

``We don’t think a hunt at the present level poses a danger to the stock, but we oppose Norway’s unilaterally hunting whales in defiance of the International Whaling Commission. There has to be international management of international resources,″ said Greenpeace’s David Stenerud-Mikalsen.

But even IWC scientists acknowledged last year that the Norwegian hunt for minke whales is sustainable, while most other whale species are still considered close to extinction.

The scientists agreed with the Norwegian estimate of 900,000 minke whales, of which 118,000 are to be found in Norwegian waters.

Norwegian Whaling Commissioner Kaare Bryn attributes the change of attitude to better information in the last few years.

``Before, anything that the extreme animal-rights organizations said about whaling was accepted at face value,″ Bryn said.

He also pointed out that a majority of delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Zimbabwe earlier this year voted in favor of a Norwegian proposal to allow a limited trade in minke whale meat.

``Everybody now realizes that our whale hunting has come to stay,″ Bryn said.

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