11 July 2001
Supporting Greenpeaces bid to prevent Norway from breaking a 15-year ban on whale meat exports, Air Malta, along with 20 other airlines, has pledged not to transport blubber or meat from whales.
Greenpeace has secured an international air blockade against the blubber trade just as Oslo has prepared to resume hunting the endangered species in defiance of ban.
Most airlines flying out of Oslo, the country's main airport, have joined the air blockade, although the Norwegian and some other Scandinavian airlines have refused.
The ban comes a mere fortnight before the International Whaling Commission meets in London, where Britain and the United States are expected to condemn Norway's plan. The convention allows whaling if a country consumes all the whale products and does not attempt to export, as in Norway's case, the blubber or fat.
Pressure to resume export whaling is increasing, with a number of small pro-whaling nations joining the commission following large aid receipts from Japan, where whale meat is a luxury, to build up fisheries.
The Norwegian government announced in January it would allow the export of minke whale products. This trade would be despite minke whales being listed in the convention on the international trade in endangered species, and hence their export being banned.
Greenpeace hopes the air blockade will make exporting difficult and focus world attention on the issue. It is writing to other airlines to try to widen the ban. Richard Page, a Greenpeace campaigner, said he was shocked by the extent to which Norway was prepared to go.
"History shows us that commercial whaling always leads to the devastation of whale populations. The resumption of an international trade in whale meat and blubber will only encourage pirate whaling and spell disaster for both abundant and endangered species of whales alike."
A report by WWF underlines Greenpeace's concerns. It says seven out of 13 species that have been protected from hunting for 15 years, and some far longer, remain endangered.
Collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing gear, intensive oil
and gas development in feeding grounds, toxic pollution, and climate
change, all threaten them, the report says, while it adds that industrial
chemicals and pesticides accumulate in blubber and are passed in milk
to feed offspring, potentially poisoning them.