Japan resumes imports of Norway whale meat

LONDON (Kyodo) Japan has agreed to allow whale meat to be imported from Norway for the first time since 1988, officials from both countries said Saturday in a decision expected to infuriate antiwhaling nations.

On Feb. 6, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry gave the green light to a plan to import 5.6 tons of minke whale meat from Norway. The decision came about five months after Japan agreed to resume whale meat imports from Iceland after a 17-year hiatus.

Iceland and Norway are the only countries that are engaged in commercial whaling. Japan stopped commercial whaling after the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on it took effect in 1986. Since then, Japanese whaling has been limited to what it calls research purposes.

The Norwegian meat arrived at Nagoya port last June, but the Fisheries Agency waited until late January to file for permission to import it.

While the portion designated as meat to be eaten raw failed to pass customs tests, the other parts are expected to be cleared soon.

“There is some sensitivity because it’s whale meat,” a Fisheries Agency official said when asked why it took eight months to get the OK after the meat arrived.

Another reason was the paperwork, the official said. It’s been awhile since the agency has had to deal with whale meat from Norway, the official explained.

Some observers suspect the delay reflects caution on the part of the government, which is concerned that the decision could stoke rebuke from antiwhaling nations.