333. That’s the number of minke whales the Japanese whaling fleet has killed in the Antarctic this season. This shockingly high number should not make us forget that Norway has killed about twice as many minke whales every season in recent years.

Guest blog by Marna Frida Olsen

“Bloody Watson”. Served with onion, steamed vegetables and pepper sauce. I couldn’t help but laugh. This was such a humorous symbol of the Norwegian’s counter-reaction to some of the more aggressive foreign anti-whaling activism that has taken place since the 70’s. Of course, I wasn’t happy to see a whale steak on the menu. It was rather disheartening in fact, as, if it’s on the menu, it’s being eaten.

Menucard offering whale meatAround 1,000 “Bloody Watsons” are sold each year, according to Dag Ivar Lund who runs the Lysthuset Sørvesten Restaurant in Andenes, a small coastal village 300 kilometers North of the Arctic Circle. In an interview in a local magazine Dag Ivar Lund tells the story about the time when two Sea Shepherd folks entered his restaurant to confront him about the “Bloody Watson”. With great sarcasm he assured them:

“I explained that we didn’t mean ‘Bloody Watson’ in the way British folks may interpret it – like ‘damn Watson’, but that we simply wanted to signal that this was a bloody whale steak…”

The restaurant also serves “Hvalbiffsnadder”, or whale meat chunks, with French fries and béarnaise, raw carpaccio-style whale meat in a cognac marinade, and a whale pizza “a la Bastesen” named after Steinar Bastesen, a former politician and whaler.

Tourists feed the whaling industry

IMG_2065 - Juvenile Minke Whale (002)Andenes, which is placed on the Northern tip of the island Andøya, has become a must-visit for nature photographers and whale enthusiasts. In summertime, sperm whales roam an underwater canyon near the coast. In wintertime, hundreds of orcas, humpbacks and fin whales gather to feed on the abundance of herring that a few years ago chose Andfjord as part of their winter ground. Tourists flock on whale watch boats to get a glimpse of these fascinating giants of the sea.

And what happens to minke whales, a common sight in the North Atlantic? Each year, hundreds of them are brutally harpooned and slaughtered by the Norwegian whaling fleet and turned into ‘hvalbiff’ or whale steak as well as cheap dog food. What is a bit of a paradox is that much of the whale meat sold in restaurants is consumed by some of the very same tourists that go out watching whales. The same can be said about Iceland where about 50 minke whales are slaughtered each year.

A subsidized business

Whale meat in Norwegian supermarketLeaving Lysthuset Sørvesten Restaurant, I walked 100 meters down the road to the supermarket, Coop Prix. I wanted to see if whale meat was being sold there. And there it was in the fish department’s freezer, whale meat chunks in 500g packages from Lofothval for 44 NOK (5 CHF). In Bunnpris, another supermarket on the same road, I find whale steaks from Myklebust.

I was not surprised to find whale meat in the town’s supermarkets. The large international supermarket chain, SPAR, with 281 stores in Norway, continues to sell whale meat in their Norwegian stores despite international protest by OceanCare in collaboration with other NGOs. The Norwegian government backs up the sale.

Similar to the Icelanders and Japanese, whale meat is not an everyday meal for the average Norwegian. Many eat it only on rare occasions and fewer than 5 percent of Norwegians eat whale meat regularly. The Norwegian Government subsidizes their dying whaling fleet by promoting whale products to the public through branding and marketing campaigns. New and modernized whale products are found throughout the country’s supermarkets and restaurants, including whale kebab, burgers and sausages.

What you can do

Whaling is a bloody business. The about 600 minke whales hunted in Norwegian waters each year are killed with explosive harpoons that are meant to detonate in the whale’s brain. In most cases this kills the whale instantly. But too often something goes wrong and it takes much longer for a whale to die, sometimes 15 horrendous minutes or more.

Minke whaleHopefully, the Norwegians will soon make the honorable choice to protect the minke whale. Until then, we need to continue to raise our voices for the whales. As a tourist, you have power to make a difference. Use that power and be part of the solution, not the problem. If you ever visit Norway or one of the other whaling nations, please refrain from buying whale meat and let your opinion be heard.

 Japan’s whaling fleet has killed 333 minke whales, including 200 pregnant females

On March 24th the Japanese whaling fleet returned from its Antarctic minke whale hunt. 333 minke whales lost their lives, as was the quota for this season. Tragically, about 200 of them were pregnant females. The Japanese are committed to kill 333 minke whales every year over a ten-year period in the name of NEWREP-A, a sham scientific whale research program. In 2014, the International Court of Justice condemned their “scientific” whaling operations and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) never approved their current whaling mission.

By supporting OceanCare, you support their attendance at IWC conferences as well as a number of campaigns for the protection of whales and dolphins.

Marna Frida Olsen

Marna Frida Olsen is a Faroese citizen and animal advocate.  She has been closely cooperating with OceanCare in the past, for example as a Cove Monitor during the 2015/2016 drive hunt season in Taiji.

Copyrights Menucard and whale products: Marna Frida Olsen

Copyrights Minkewhale and Whale Watching Boat: Jeremy Parkin