Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
The whaling debate
As Norway's whaling season gets under way amid protests from international conservation organisations, representatives from both sides of the whaling debate put their case to BBC News Online.
Chris Stroud, Director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
Norwegian whalers have begun an unnecessary hunt for 753 minke whales although they have still to sell their whale meat stockpiles from previous years' hunts.
This unconsumable increase in Norway's self-allocated quota is designed to put political pressure on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The aim is to make the IWC endorse this commercial whaling through the implementation of a proposal from Ireland that would undermine the IWC and grant quotas to two of the world's richest nations.
Norway and her whalers have consistently failed to abide by international whaling regulations. The current industrial whaling is a flagrant contravention of the existing 1982 moratorium decision.
During the last 10 years there have been numerous attempts by whalers to smuggle whale meat to their true market of Japan where prices can reach $300 for a kilo of whale meat and blubber.
In 1994 a Norwegian whaling boat caught and processed a whale in excess of its quota despite having a national inspector on board.
There is still controversy about how many whales there are in the oceans but we do know that they are facing increasing threats from man-made pollutants and global climate change.
We are only just becoming aware of these insidious threats and with such long living and slow breeding creatures they could have disastrous effects on the long-term stability of whale populations.
Furthermore, in some children of the Faro Islands, not far from Norway, we are now beginning to see neurological problems caused by the fact that their mothers consumed polluted whale meat.
Killing whales is inherently cruel, with some of these sentient creatures taking up to 55 minutes to die in the Norwegian hunts.
Many of these creatures are pregnant females, which have been reportedly hunted because they give more meat.
The Norwegian whalers are successful fishermen, with a steady income from their other fishing activities. Whale meat was not consumed much in Norway until the 1930s and 1940s when the industry was developed in light of the huge profits that were to be made.
As the 20th century draws to a close, is time to condemn this unnecessary and cruel industry to the annals of history.
Arthur Knutsen, Economic Counsellor of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London
The international experts of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has several times stated that the minke whale is not endangered.
In 1996, they agreed a stock estimate of 112,000 in the north east Atlantic. In addition, the sightings results indicated that there are about 11,000 in the Norwegian Jan Mayen area.
Under no circumstances is Norwegian whaling in breach of any international agreement. We have reserved our position on the whaling moratorium in accordance with the provision of the International Whaling Convention.
As such, we are neither bound by the ban nor in contravention of international agreements. Norway's minke quota for 1999 is 753 animals. This includes a transfer of 140 animals from previously unused quotas in accordance with the IWC's 1997 decision on transfer of quotas.
Whaling is carried out in close co-operation with scientists from all over the world and follows the conditions set out by the IWC Scientific Committee.
All the scientific information gathered is then made available to the committee. It is scientific investigations of this kind which provide the very basis for the IWC's analysis of the condition of the minke whale stock.
Norway has undertaken considerable research into improving catch methods for small-type minke whaling so as to minimise suffering. Our efforts in this regard have been commended by the IWC but we intend to do more.
There are now training programmes for fishing boat crews participating in the traditional coastal whaling hunt. Rigorous inspection and control procedures through specially trained onboard veterinary inspectors have also been implemented. An inspector now goes out with every hunt vessel.