An investigation in Greenland by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has shown whale meat from aboriginal hunting is being made available for sale to visiting tourists on restaurant menus and at supermarkets.
Campaigners say the findings of the investigation appear to be undermining the commercial ban on whale hunting as observed under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an 88-nation body that officially oversees whaling.
Since 1986, the International Whaling Commission has observed a global ban on commercial whale hunting. But the commission still grants a limited number of permits for whales to be killed by aboriginal hunting and the meat is intended to feed only local people.
The IWC explains on its website:
Since its inception, the IWC has recognised that aboriginal subsistence whaling is of a different nature to commercial whaling...Under current IWC regulations, aboriginal subsistence whaling is permitted for Denmark (Greenland, fin, humpback and minke whales), the Russian Federation (Siberia, gray and bowhead whales), St Vincent and The Grenadines (Bequia, humpback whales) and the USA (Alaska, bowhead and gray whales).
It is the responsibility of national governments to provide the Commission with evidence of the cultural and subsistence needs of their people. The statements of cultural and subsistence need submitted to previous Commission discussions on aboriginal subsistence whaling can be accessed below. The Scientific Committee provides scientific advice on safe catch limits for such stocks.
The investigation found that 24 out of 31 restaurants visited, contacted or researched online served whale meat.
The WDCS's report comes just before the International Whaling Commission meeting in Panama where the Danish government is expected to demand more whaling permits for Greenland, which is a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Telegraph reports.
"The Danish government's claims that Greenland needs to kill more whales for nutritional and cultural needs is laughable," Chris Butler-Stroud, WDCS’s chief executive said in a press statement. "Who is this meat really for? Our investigation report shows that this demand for more whale meat is clearly driven by the commercial consumer market, not by aboriginal needs."
Bringing whale meat back from Greenland and into the U.K., E.U. or U.S. is illegal and could result in a prison sentence, warns the WDCS.
In 2011, an investigation in Iceland found whale meat openly sold and packaged for export in the departure area at Keflavik airport to travelers who, if they made the purchase, risked arrest for importing an internationally protected species.
Around 15 species of whale are regular visitors to Greenland's waters. And while all not all whales are endangered or threatened, the International Union for Conservation of Nature notes the global population has declined by 70 percent since 1929.