Whale Sanctuary - 29th June 2004
News from Norway has lent fresh urgency to a campaign just launched by the National Seal Sanctuary calling for European seas to be declared a sanctuary for whales.

The Sanctuary based at Gweek has with the UK network of Sea Life centres, joined forces with Sussex-based anti-whaling group Campaign Whale to raise a petition for a European Whale Sanctuary.

The move comes just as Norway - already Europe´s biggest whale hunting nation - is planning to triple its annual catch of minke whales.

"Whaling is a cruel and unnecessary industry and is opposed by an overwhelming majority of people all over Europe" said Sea Life Biologist Rob Hicks.

"Unfortunately a few nations are still killing whales and action is needed to get this outlawed".

Campaign Whale director Andy Ottoway said that signatures collected would be presented next year to EU environment commissioner Margaret Wallstrom.

"The International Whaling Commission voted to end Whaling in 1996, but Norway and Iceland have never accepted the IWC´s directives" he said.

"Norway has been killing around 700 minke whales every year and Iceland has already announced plans to resume commercial whaling in 2006 and will kill further whales for so-called "research" this year."

"With Iceland and Norway defying the ban on commercial Whaling, we are calling on the EU to ban commercial whaling forever and ensure that no country can ever join the EU and kill whales" he added.

The Norwegian parliament has now passed a resolution to increase its annual minke quota to 1,800.

Its fisheries minister said Norway also wanted to start "scientific research" on other whale species, using satellite transmitters to count them prior to hunting some of the less abundant species.

"Even before the advent of harpoon guns and high speed pursuit vessels, man managed to hunt many whale species to the brink of extinction" said Rob Hicks.

"What chance would they have if the industry were to resume now?"

The new petition will run alongside another that the Sanctuary and Sea Life centres started last year calling for action to end the deaths of whales and dolphin´s caught in fishing nets.