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Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK

World: Europe

Norway fears whaling backlash

Opponents say harpooning whales is a cruel way to kill

Norwegian police are on the alert for protests from animal welfare activists, as the country's whaling season gets under way on Monday.

Tony Samstag reports: The number of animals killed has increased dramatically
Norway plans to catch 753 minke whales this season - the biggest quota since the country resumed hunting in 1993 after a seven-year international moratorium. The new quota represents a 12% increase in the intended catch on last year.

A BBC correspondent says the beginning of this year's whaling season looks set to pass with little notice in the Norwegian media, but protests have been coming in from abroad and security police fear violent action from animal rights activists.

The international conservation organisation, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), has called on the Norwegian Government to call off the hunt.

It said in a statement: "The WWF appeals urgently to Norway to stop abusively profiting from loopholes of the International Whaling Commission and put an end to whale hunting.

The BBC's Lucy Wade: "In Japan the whale meat is seen as something of a delicacy"
"Since the partial lifting of the moratorium Norway and Japan have been authorised to hunt whales.

"Norway has not stopped increasing the number of minkes it allocates to itself even although unsaleable stocks of blubber are piling up all over the country," the WWF said.

Blubber stockpiles

Our correspondent says the Norwegian Government forbids the export of whale meat and other whale products out of deference to a largely disapproving international public opinion, despite the high prices fetched by delicacies such as whale blubber on the Japanese market.

The WWF's Stuart Chapman calls for an international scheme to monitor Norway's whaling activities
Huge stockpiles of blubber - estimated to amount to some 800 tonnes - have built up as a result of the export ban.

However the WWF's international conservation officer, Stuart Chapman, said this was the seventh consecutive year that Norway had set its own whaling quotas. These quotas have risen steadily since Norway resumed commercial whaling after the partial lifting of the moratorium.

Mr Chapman told BBC Radio: "It's high time that they abide by the wishes of the international community and stop these activities."

Norway's whaling season ends on 17 July.

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