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Whalers Try To Revive Desire For Whale Meat

The old argument for whale meat used to be that it was a cheap, familiar meat for old people who had grown up on it. Sustenance and self-sufficiency came up a lot. Now that Japan and Iceland have spurned international bans on whaling, they’re hard to market whale meat to new customers.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that in Reykjavik marketer Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson is trying to “hook” urban hipsters on whale meat by selling it in vacuum-sealed ready packs and offering recipe tips.

The Journal quotes Eva Maria Thorarinsdottir, marketing manager of Reykjavik’s Elding Whale Watching saying hunting has made minke whales much shier. So all the government of Iceland’s support of the nostalgic whaling industry is hurting people who are making a living on animal tourism. “Our business is much more profitable than theirs,” she says.

The Washington Post says the Japanese government and pro-whaling groups spend $5 million a year for promotions like to getting school kids to try whale meat. Meanwhile, though, demand is so low that prices have fallen 20% from 1999 to 2004 ($15 a pound to $12 a pound). And they still have extra that they have to freeze.

This looks like yet another program where a government is throwing money away to support a dying industry (whaling) rather than throwing money behind a growing industry (whale watching).

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