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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 13:30 GMT
Japan to import Norwegian whale
Whaling ship
Japan is expanding is whaling programme
Japan is planning to resume imports of whale meat from Norway for the first time in 11 years.

Officials from the Japanese fisheries agency have confirmed that a sample of at least two kilograms of whale meat has arrived in Japan, and is awaiting import approval.

Japan and Norway have obviously decided to go their own way, and the rest of the international community be damned

Fred O'Regan, IFAW
The plan has provoked uproar from animal rights groups, who were angered by Japan's decision last week to add endangered sei whales to the list of whales it hunts.

An international moratorium was imposed on commercial whale hunting in 1986, but Japan continues to catch whales for what it says are research purposes.

Norway resumed commercial whale hunts in 1993, despite the global moratorium - but in recent years has found it hard to sell the meat on the domestic market.

Last January it caused controversy by lifting its ban on exports. And last month Norway raised its whaling quota, saying it was ready to re-start sales to Japan.


Conservationists fear that Japan and Norway may succeed in ending the international moratorium when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets in Japan in May.

Japanese diner
Whale meat is much more expensive in Japan than Norway
"We are very much against this," said Motoji Nagasawa, a whale campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

"The biggest problem is that once Norway starts exports, other pro-whaling nations might follow - and it will be impossible to completely eliminate smuggling as well."

The president of the Washington-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Fred O'Regan, said it was "absolutely outrageous".

"Japan and Norway have obviously decided to go their own way, and the rest of the international community be damned," he said.

Whale meat was common on Japanese school lunch menus until a few decades ago, but is now an expensive delicacy.

Blubber is the most popular part of the whale among Japanese diners, but it is not eaten in Norway, where there is a huge stockpile of blubber awaiting possible future trade.

Japan will not import Norwegian blubber for the time being, however, because of concerns that it contains potentially cancer-causing or toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Whale meat in Norway costs about half what it does in Japan, and Japanese fisheries agency officials hope that imports of cheap whale meat will increase consumption.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan plans to expand whaling
23 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan battles to save beached whales
14 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Greenpeace disrupts Japan whalers
04 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Whaling 'safe for a century'
06 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese whalers prepare for hunt
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