REYKJAVIK (AFP) — Iceland and Norway resumed whale meat exports to Japan this year after an 18-year interruption, industry representatives from both Scandinavian countries said.
"Iceland and Norway resumed exporting whale meat to Japan," Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, president of the Icelandic association representing Minke whale hunters, told AFP.
"We (Iceland) have exported to Japan 80 tonnes of fine whale's meat about two weeks ago. The meat is now in Japan. We got the authorization from the government in 2006. And the last exports (before those) were in 1990," said Jonsson.
Despite Japan being the largest market for whale meat, Norwegian whalers prior to now met with no uptake from Japanese buyers who worried mercury and dioxin levels were abnormally high in the Scandinavian product.
"Norway announced in 2001 that it would resume its exports. Up to now, our sales were limited to Iceland and the Faroe Islands but, this year, meat has also been exported to Japan," Halvard Johansen, an official with Norway's fishing ministry, told AFP.
"Ask the Japanese," replied Johansen when questioned why Japan had re-opened its doors to Norweigan products.
Norway once again began whale hunting in 1993 despite an international moratorium imposed since 1986 to protect the species. Iceland followed suit in 2006 and is now the only other country that allows commercial hunting of whales.
Jonsson said no future quotas on Icelandic whale meat exports to Japan have been set.
"But we hope to get more this season," he said.
Japan, Norway and Iceland are the only countries that continue to hunt whales, despite international condemnation.
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