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By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO, June 6 (Reuters) - The first whale meat sent to Japan in more than a decade by North Atlantic hunters Iceland and Norway is stuck in cold storage without an import licence, officials said on Friday.
Nearly 70 tonnes of frozen meat from the marine mammals was sent to Japan last month - the first such export since the early 1990s - and whaling lobbies hailed the move as the opening of a new export market.
The Japanese embassy in Oslo said that no import licences for the meat had been granted by Japan as of Thursday this week.
"The government of Japan did not receive a request for any such import licence," diplomat Hitoshi Kawahara told Reuters.
Many countries and environmental groups oppose harpooning whales, saying that stocks are low after decades of over-hunting ended with the 1986 moratorium by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Iceland, Norway and Japan have circumvented the moratorium and do not recognise a trade ban by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, saying it was political and that scientific data showed whale stocks rising.
"This is just a scam, they are trying to force this meat on the Japanese, there is no new market," Greenpeace spokesman Frode Pleym told Reuters. "For the last two-and-a-half weeks, this stuff has simply been sitting in storage."
Icelandic whaling company Hvalur, which sent the minke and fin whale meat to Japan, was not available to comment.
The resumed exports come just weeks before an annual meeting of the IWC, which in past years has been pressured by the three whaling states to end the moratorium.
Whaling is a hot political issue in Iceland and to a lesser degree in Norway, with supporters saying they seek to cultivate tradition in a responsible way. Opponents say that consumption of whale meat has dropped and that the industry could make more money from whale watching tourism than killing whales.
"Japan doesn't need any imports -- they have too much whale meat in storage," Pleyn said. "Both in Japan and more recently in Norway some of the whale meat has been going into dog food, which is an indication of the consumption level."
"Which is great for the whales, so why continue the hunt?"