By Inger Sethov
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway said Friday it would defy an international ban on commercial whaling and resume exports of whale meat to Iceland after a 14-year break.
Oslo said it would issue an export license to a whaling company in the next few days to send 10-15 tons of minke whale meat to the North Atlantic island, although whales are on an international list of endangered species.
"This is a great victory," Ole Mindor Myklebust, a whaler and director of the export company Myklebust Trading AS, told Reuters. "It has been a battle full of surprises and disappointment."
Norway resumed commercial hunting of minke whales in 1993, ignoring a global moratorium, and said last year it would allow exports to pro-whaling nations like Japan and Iceland for the first time since 1988.
Exports to Iceland had been stalled by a Norwegian demand that Reykjavik carry out DNA genetic tests to help Oslo track the meat. Japan, where whale meat is also a delicacy, is expanding its own "scientific research" whaling program.
The DNA checking system "is now in place in Iceland and export licenses will now be issued," Jan Pieter Groenhof, an adviser at the Norwegian Fisheries Ministry, told Reuters.
Myklebust, the only whaler to apply for a license so far, said he was likely to export the frozen meat during the summer.
"We already have a deal. When we get a license, we just need to reserve a place on a ship for transport," Myklebust said.
He did not disclose the price. A whale contains on average about 3,300 lbs. of meat and 1,320 lbs. of blubber. Icelanders mostly eat fried whale meat.
Iceland, which halted whaling in 1990, says whales are abundant, are consuming its fish stocks and should be hunted within limits. It wants to resume hunting, but the International Whaling Commission has repeatedly vetoed its requests for a system of regulated catches.
Norway, ignoring the IWC, has set its own catch quota of 674 minke whales for this season.
The whaling lobby group High North Alliance said it hoped that exports to Iceland could pave the way for trade with Japan.
"Iceland is a relatively small market, but it's a start," said Rune Frovik, secretary at the High North Alliance.