* Fishing group says whale processing plants full
* Activist: Stop another signal consumer demand dropping
* Whaling unionist says industry hit by financial crisis
OSLO, June 24 (Reuters) - Norway has suspended whaling in the middle of its hunting season because industry demand has been satisfied.
Japan, Norway and Iceland do not recognise a global ban on whaling. Norwegian whalers kill the minke whale that is not threatened with extinction under a strict quota system.
Less than half of Norway's annual quota of 855 minke whales has been caught, down from the levels a year ago when the industry also failed to fill its allotted total. The summertime season normally runs until August.
"We have ordered the halt because we have enough whale meat on vessels compared to what the whaling industry needs," said Svein Ove Haugland, a spokesman for the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organisation, on Wednesday.
"If the processing industry finds out they need more whale then we might open up (for hunting) again," he told Reuters.
Whaling opponents say consumer demand for the meat is falling, a view disputed by Norwegian whalers.
"It's quite likely that it was not enough demand because very few people eat whale meat," said Truls Gulowsen from Greenpeace Norway. "The continuing trend in declining demand will hopefully close the industry, which retains political support even though it lost its economic significance long ago."
Whaling in Norway has powerful political backers who view the issue in terms of sovereign rights in territorial waters.
Bjoern Bendiksen, chairman of the Norwegian whalers' union, said temporary stops in whaling were "quite normal". Many processing plants were having problems due to the financial crisis and not because of any lack of demand, he said.
"Such stops happen very often. Unfortunately it is happening now when whale buyers have less money due to the financial crisis," he told Reuters by telephone.
Bendiksen said the stop in commercial whaling could last "from a week to two weeks, or maybe a bit longer because of the Norwegian holiday season" which continues through most of July.
Norway catches whales in the waters of the North, Norwegian and Barents seas as well as around its north Atlantic islands between Europe and Greenland.
The International Whaling Commission is holding an annual meeting on the Portuguese island of Madeira this week to review the future of whaling. (Editing by Robert Woodward)
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