The crew of the Jan Bjorn, from Norway, haul in a slaughtered minke whale after it suffered for several minutes from a failed harpoon shot, 14 July 2013. Photo: Jo Fidgen / BBC News

By Jo Fidgen
14 July 2013

NORWAY (BBC News) – Whale hunters tend to shy away from publicity because of the controversy surrounding their profession. But the crew of the Jan Bjorn in Norway - a country whose fishermen kill around 500 minke whales a year for commercial purposes - agreed to let us join them on a hunting trip.

Boom! The shock of the cannon judders through the old boat.

It's a hit.

The minke is motionless maybe 30 yards away, the rope attached to the harpoon trailing in the water. The skipper, Jan, strains his small frame to haul in the catch.

It does not give an inch. So Fred lends his considerable bulk to the task. He turns to me with a flicker of a grin.

"Now the work begins," he says.

Fred is a paramedic by day. "Whaling is like a vacation," he told me one afternoon as we sat in the crow's nest, scanning the sea for tell-tale puffs of vapour. […]

Every whaler I met insisted whales were eating too many fish, leaving too few for them. Many wanted to be allowed to hunt bigger whales, and seals too.

The fuss baffles them.

Jan told me: "I was raised on a farm. We took care of the cows and the sheep and slaughtered them when it was time. For me it's no worse to take the life of a whale than to kill an ox. Whale is food." […]

I comforted myself the kill would be quick. Nine times out of 10, I had been told, the grenade detonated inside the whale's brain, an instant death.

Only, this day it was not going to plan. Three minutes had passed since the whale had been harpooned. For most of that time, it had been under the surface.

Suddenly it lurched into view, revealing a deep gash in its back where the harpoon had passed right through.

Only now did I realise that it was still alive and trying to swim. Fred grabbed the rifle just as the whale dived again. The boat was tense.

Two long minutes went by before the whale reappeared and Fred could finish the job.

He turned to me grim-faced. "I want you to know, it almost never happens like this," he said.

The captain, Jan, took the blame - saying he misfired and was sorry it had happened. But these are practical men.

"This can happen in all kinds of hunting," he told me. "If you shoot an elk, it might run into the forest and you don't manage to kill it until the next day." [more]

Whale hunting: 'It is like killing an ox'



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