LISBON (Reuters) - Japan and Norway are giving large subsidies to their whaling industries, which have become unprofitable due to rising costs and declining demand for whale meat, the WWF said Friday.
Conservation group the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said a report it commissioned on the economics of whaling shows Japan has spent $164 million supporting its whaling industry since 1988 and Norway’s subsidies add up to more than $15 million since 1992.
“In this time of global economic crisis, the use of valuable tax dollars to prop up what is basically an economically unviable industry is neither strategic, sustainable, nor an appropriate use of limited government funds,” said Susan Lieberman, WWF’s Species Director Program.
Lieberman’s comments come just days ahead of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) annual meeting in Madeira next week, where Japan and Norway are likely to come under pressure from anti-whaling nations including Britain and the United States to end their hunts.
Japan officially observes a 1986 global moratorium on whaling — unlike Norway and Iceland, which ignore it and carry out commercial whaling — but still catches about 900 whales a year in Antarctic waters for what it calls research purposes.
Most of the meat from the scientific catches ends up on the dinner table, angering animal welfare groups around the world who argue that many species face extinction and that explosive harpoons used by whalers can cause horrific suffering.
The report commissioned by the WWF said the Japanese whaling industry needed $12 million to break even in the 2009-season and that whale meat vendors have had to cut their margins due to waning demand.
Margins are also tight in the Norwegian whaling industry with low fixed prices and falling meat demand, a situation illustrated by the fact that the country has only taken around 70 percent of its self-assigned 885-whale quota in recent years.
The Norwegian government supports its whaling sector through fuel, transport and storage cost subsidies, as well as financing information campaigns, it added.
Editing by Axel Bugge and Jon Hemming