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No whale for lunch in Oslo
By Sue Eden of NZPA

Otago Daily Times

10th June 2004

Oslo: Whale meat was not on the menu for lunch yesterday when Prime Minister Helen Clark made the first official visit by a New Zealand prime minister to Norway, where the two countries' opposing views on whaling were discussed.

"I can assure that I will not offer her whale meat at the lunch. We have another menu," Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said after their meeting.

New Zealand and Norway are generally on the same wavelength on environmental issues, with the exception of whaling.

Norway resumed whaling in 1993, seven years after an International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on whaling went into effect.

Norway opposed the establishment of a South Pacific whale sanctuary, which New Zealand and Australia have been fighting for. It also supports Japan's "scientific" whaling programme.

It has set a quota of 670 catches for this year's hunt for minke whales in the Barents Sea, which began last month and ends in August.

Ms Clark said New Zealand and Norway had common ground on many international issues but their perspectives had always been different on whaling.

"There are very few issues which divide Norway and New Zealand. Traditionally, it has been the International Whaling Commission and probably some difference of emphasis in the WTO but overall its stances in the UN, stances in multilateralism are very, very similar positions."

Speaking to journalists, Ms Clark said her message to the Norwegians was that the whale had suffered a great deal from humans using more and more advanced technology to hunt them "to the point of near extinction".

Mr Bondevik said Norway caught whales on "scientific" criteria with "limited" catches.

It was reported last month that stocks of whale meat caught in the 2003 hunting season were still in Oslo stores. Supermarkets have produced brochures suggesting recipes to induce consumers to buy the meat.

Ms. Clark arrives back in the country tomorrow.