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Storm Begins: International Condemnation Rains Down On Norway

July 1, 1992

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) _ Norway, which said it was braced for a storm of protest when it announced plans to resume commercial whaling next year, stood fast today against the first blast.

″We will maintain our position,″ Norwegian commissioner Jan Arvesen said at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission after 15 nations signed a U.S.-sponsored statement urging Norway to reconsider its defiance of the moratorium on whaling.

The statement said Norway’s move ″may seriously undermine the only international organization with authority to manage whaling.″

But U.S. Commissioner John Knauss acknowledged that changing the Norwegians’ position would be difficult because ″this is playing very well in Norway.″

The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, for example, said it ″finds no ecological reason to prohibit the catch of a quota of minke whales″ based on estimates of whale numbers.

The international commission, which has no enforcement powers, adopted the moratorium in 1982 to allow scientists to determine whether whales are threatened with extinction.

Norway’s prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, announced on Monday that Norway would begin killing minke whales for profit again next year. She believes northeast Atlantic stocks are sufficiently large.

The commission’s scientists estimate there are 760,000 minke whales in the Antarctic and 86,700 in the northeast Atlantic. Some whales are still killed for research, but Norway, Iceland and Japan want to resume commercial hunts for minkes, the smallest of the baleen whales at 30 feet long.

Norway’s decision drew widespread criticism Tuesday.

The European Commission, in a strongly worded statement, called on Norway and on Iceland, which quit the whaling group Monday, to ″maintain their credibility as nations ... and refuse to condone brutal practices such as the killing of marine mammals.″

A coalition of 28 conservation groups said: ″The timing and nature of the Norwegian statement is intended to subvert the decision-making process of the IWC. It is a blatant attempt by Norway to impose its will on the commission.″

Arvesen, Norway’s member on the international commission, said today that Norway had not decided how many minke whales it would take when the commercial hunt begins next spring. In the early 1980s, before curbs were imposed, Norway killed about 1,600 whales a year.

The U.S.-sponsored statement asking Norway to reconsider was signed by Austria, Britain, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Oman, South Africa, Switzerland, Brazil, France, Ireland, New Zealand, the Seychelles and Sweden.

Although Iceland quit the commission over the whaling ban, it said it had no plans to start commercial hunting immediately. Japan, the world’s largest consumer of whale meat, also opposes the ban, but said it will work within the organization to try to end the moratorium.