Whale Meat Transported via the Northern Sea Route

Winter Bay
The Sam Simon passes by the Winter Bay escorted by the Harstad. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Lukas Erichsen

By MarEx 2015-08-31 20:37:02

A ship carrying 1,816 tons of fin whale meat from Iceland arrived in Japan on Sunday. The transit was made via the Arctic Ocean for the first time, to avoid obstruction by anti-whaling groups in the Indian Ocean.

The ship, Winter Bay, flying the flag of St. Kitts and Nevis, arrived in Osaka with what is believed to be around 40 percent of Japan’s annual consumption. 

The fin whale is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, of which Japan is a member.

After this first journey, local Japanese media report the shipper indicating that it aims to make the route its main one for transporting whale meat to Japan, rather than the traditional route via the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean.

The vessel stopped over in Tromsø, Norway, in July where it was met by Sea Shepherd protestors. Sea Shepherd stated that the meat has been harvested from endangered whales slaughtered in the North Atlantic by Icelandic whaling company Hvalur H/F, run by CEO and Chair Kristján Loftsson.

The Winter Bay, which up until 2014 was Norwegian-owned and operated by the country's shipping and ferry company Nor Lines, has since been reflagged to a St. Kitts and Nevis.

“We went to Tromsø to investigate and document the shipment of fin whale meat, which has been caught and traded despite an international ban on both commercial whaling, and commercial trade in whale products,” said Sam Simon Captain Lockhart MacLean from Sea Shepherd.

“We also found that ownership of the ship carrying that meat, the Winter Bay, has been transferred to a shell company in Tortola British Virgin Islands, and the vessel's management has been outsourced to a Latvian ship operator named Aquaship AS,” he continued. “It’s not uncommon for older, aging ships to be handled in this way to avoid the cost of maintenance and upgrades.”

Speaking in July, MacLean said: “It would be interesting to see what provisions and recommendations the flag state has made in regards to the Winter Bay’s upcoming Arctic voyage to Japan via the Northern Sea route, considering they are a tiny Caribbean nation, tens of thousands of miles away from the harsh and demanding conditions of the Arctic.”

St. Kitts and Nevis is currently on the grey list of the Paris MOU and also the Tokyo MOU.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.