Norwegians Kill 546 Minke Whales in 2006

Norwegian hunters killed 546 minke whales this year, falling far short of their commercial whaling quota because bad weather spoiled much of the season, government and industry officials said Monday.

Norway resumed commercial hunts of minke whales in 1993 despite an international moratorium, and raised its quota in 2006 to 1,052, the highest in two decades.

But hunters only managed to reach just over half that amount in the season that ended last month — 93 fewer than last year, officials said.

"To hunt whales, you need very good weather, which we didn't have," said Magnar Pedersen of the Norwegian Raw Fish Organization. He added that the Norwegian whaling fleet was not adapted well enough to the rough conditions in Arctic waters.

Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries spokesman Olav Lekve said next year's quota had not been set yet.

Norwegians eat the red meat of whales, but the blubber — once the most valuable part of the catch — is now dumped because there is no domestic market for the fatty tissue.

Anti-whaling activists have warned that the Norwegian hunt could encourage other countries, including Russia, to break the moratorium on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986.

Iceland last month resumed commercial whaling, and said it would issue licenses to kill nine fin whales and 30 of the more numerous minke whales.