Norway is one of very few countries which have declined to join the international agreement to stop all form of whaling, so there are several Norwegian whaling ships that are still operational and hunting whales.
But what is the culture for eating whale meat in Norway like, and how common is it? In this article we will be looking closer at what whale meat is like for regular Norwegians.
Most Norwegians don’t really eat a lot of whale meat, and most people have probably been served it a few times in their lives. It is not a common thing to eat, and there is virtually no demand for whale meat in regular grocery stores. In fact, the whale meat is often sold super cheap compared to other types of meat to try to get people to buy it.
Whale meat is legally sold in both grocery stores and in restaurants all over Norway, but as mentioned, it’s not really that common to see for sale. It is more common to see for sale in the northern part of Norway than in the south.
Whaling in Norway
Norway still have a whale fleet, and hunt minke whale. The entire fleet of 10 – 15 vessels catches around 400 to 600 minke whales each year.
As you can imagine, a lot of people are opposed to whaling, some are for it, while most people don’t seem to have strong opinions on the matter.
Only 2% of Norwegians report eating whale meat monthly or more often. It is mostly elderly Norwegians who eat whale meat, and the percentage of people who eat whale meat is declining.
Since Norwegians rarely eat whale meat, most of the meat is exported to Japan. The Norwegian government is lobbied by the fishing industry to keep whaling, and it is working. The laws and regulations that are in place to regulate whaling have been severely loosened in the last years, making it much more easy to be whaling.
This will likely lead to an increase in whaling again, since this type of fishing is considered to be very profitable for the fishermen and ship owners.
How to eat whale meat while in Norway
You are free to try whale meat if you visit Norway, if you feel comfortable eating meat from an animal that has been hunted this way. Whale meat in Norway is sold both in regular grocery stores in the northern part of Norway and in fish shops, so places like the fish market at Bryggene in Bergen will have fresh whale meat for sale. The season for whale meat is from April until the end of September.
It’s also possible to try whale meat in most seafood restaurants if you don’t want to prepare it yourself. Again, it’s more common and less frowned upon in the northern part of Norway.
What whale meat takes like
I have never tasted whale meat even though I have lived in Norway all my life, but I have heard that it tastes kind of like a mix between venison from deer and fish. If it’s badly prepared it will have a very fishy aftertaste.
Whale meat is not really part of most Norwegian’s life or culture at all
When asking my friends and family during the research for this article, very few had actually tried eating whale meat, and for those who had, it had been served to them. No one that I talked with ever bought whale meat for themselves to eat at home with their family, and this is representative for most Norwegians as well.
There seem to be regional differences to eating whale meat, and people in Lofoten and the surrounding areas have been known to have a much higher average consumption than the rest of the country. The further north you go along the coast, the higher the consumption of whale meat it.
The same goes for age. The higher your age is, the more likely you are to eat whale meat. A recent survey found that virtually no one under the age of 30 bought and ate whale meat regularly. People living in towns and small villages far away from cities are also more likely to eat whale meat than people living in bigger towns and cities.
This gives hope to the idea that Norway might follow the rest of the world on banning whaling in the future, but the profits from exporting the meat to Japan might be too tempting to turn down for the government.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.