IS NORWAY BURNING? -  Whaler sinks, plant destroyed

On the night of Tuesday, December 11, one of Norway’s whale meat processing
plants was destroyed in a fire.

The Norwegian whaling fleet used the Olavsen brothers Lofoten plant as a transit hub, where the meat from newly slain whales would be delivered, processed and distributed throughout the country. The plant had recently expanded. Both the old and new buildings were destroyed in the blaze, which resulted in damages estimated at $30 million kroner
(US$3 million).

Five days earlier, the whaler Nehella burned and sank at the dock in Lofoten, incurring a loss of US$300,000.

Jan Olavsen was attending a meeting of the Norwegian Small Whaling Union at the time his processing plant burned down. Olavsen took over leadership of the Union from Steinar Bastesen, Norway’s “Man with the Golden Harpoon” and most visible public champion of whale hunting, who was elected to the Norwegian parliament in 1997. Bastesen was recently hospitalized after suffering a series of strokes, and is in a coma. Doctors say he is not expected to recover his faculties.

Norwegian police say they have not yet determined the cause of the two fires. Rune Frovik, spokesman for the whaling lobby group High North Alliance, previously helmed by Jan Olavsen, called the timing of the two fires “very suspicious.”

The Olavsens are the owners of Nybræna, the whaler scuttled by Sea Shepherd agents in Lofoten over Christmas 1992, for which Norway sought in vain to extradite and jail Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. The Nybræna, subsequently re-floated, was damaged on Tuesday when the fire at the Olavsen processing plant spread to the dock where it was

Norway killed 549 minke whales this year, in defiance of the global moratorium on commercial whaling. On December 10, an article in the Norwegian daily Aftenfposten quoted Frovik as saying the North Atlantic minke whale population could sustain a hunt of 2,500 whales per year, with an additional 200 fin, sei, and sperm whales thrown in to achieve an potential export value of 1.5 billion kroner in trade with Japan.

In January, Norway announced it would lift the ban on whale product exports, but it has yet to resume international trade in whale meat.


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