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Being 'Cute' is No Excuse: Norwegian Fishermen Want to Hunt Dolphins, Whales

CC0 / / Dolphin
Dolphin  - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.05.2021
Norwegian fishermen have argued that porpoises and dolphins have become so numerous that they should be opened for hunting.

The board of the Norwegian Coastal Fishermen's Association has asked the authorities to remove the hunting ban on several species of dolphins and whales that are currently protected.

In their petition published by the trade newspaper Fiskeribladet, the fishermen cite the growth of valuable stocks as the reason why the protection is not necessary anymore.

“We want a balanced intake of these predators. There is limited access to food for both animals and humans, and protecting a species just because it is cute is unfortunate”, Norwegian Coastal Fishermen's Association leader Tom Vegar Kiil told national broadcaster NRK.

According to the Institute of Marine Research, new calculations indicate that there are 250,000 porpoises and 200,000 dolphins in the Northeast Atlantic.

Kiil, a native of Northern Troms, says that in his childhood you could only spot the occasional porpoise if you were lucky. Now it is different, he said.

“Today we see hundreds almost every single day. I just looked out of my window, and then I saw 20-30 porpoises”, he said.

Furthermore, fishermen are experiencing increasing problems with getting porpoises in their nets as bycatch. Nearly 3,000 porpoises are caught annually in Norwegian fisheries.

Overall, he argued that it would be better to hunt these species out in a state when they are better suited as food and in a far more humane way.

Marine scientist Arne Bjørge at the Institute of Marine Research confirmed the picture that both dolphins and porpoises are numerous in Norwegian waters. However, he doesn't share the fishermen's impression that stocks have increased.

“We have seen a shift northwards for many species, which we assume is due to climate change and warmer seas. It may well be that further north it is perceived as if the species are more numerous”, he ventured.

However, even given the problem of bycatch, he suggested that legalising whaling is politically impossible.

“I believe it will be a political impossibility to hunt so much that the population would decline significantly. Also, it is also a bit historyless to do so, especially in Norway which has historically strongly contributed to overfishing of the large whales”, Bjørge said.

While whaling has been a part of Norwegian coastal culture for centuries from the Viking age onwards, as of today, only the hunt of minke whales is allowed in the country. These are hunted as animal and human food and for export to Japan. The practice of whaling has been met with fierce opposition from environmentalists and animal rights activists for ethical and ecological reasons.

At the peak of commercial whaling, hundreds of large whales, including fin whales and blue whales, were killed annually.

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