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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Norway opens whale-hunting season
Minke whale
Norway's whaling policy has attracted condemnation
Whaling vessels have left Norway for the Barents Sea to open this year's whale-hunting season, defying an international moratorium and protests.

The Norwegian government has set a quota of 670 minke whales for the season, which runs until 31 August.

The Scandinavian nation is the only country in the world that authorises whaling for commercial purposes.

Iceland and Japan are the only other nations to fish whales, though they claim to do so for scientific reasons.

National pride

Norway started commercial whaling again in 1993, despite an international ban on the practice seven years earlier.

It argues the hunt is needed to stop the whale population from growing so large that it devours huge stocks of fish. It says the minke whale population levels remain healthy and are not endangered by its annual hunt.

However, environmental group Greenpeace told AFP news agency that demand for whale meat in Norway was diminishing.

It accuses the Norwegian government of persisting with its controversial whaling policy to prop up national pride.

Grenade-tipped harpoons

Controversy has also focused on the manner in which the whales are killed.

Environmentalists say the grenade-tipped harpoons that explode inside the beast are unnecessarily cruel.

Whalers argue it is one of the quickest methods for killing a whale.

The first whaling vessels left Norway to hunt in the North Sea last week. But the main catches are made in the area of the North Atlantic known as the Barents Sea.

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19 Jun 03  |  Science/Nature

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