The Lofoten Island archipelago of Norway, which lies within the Arctic Circle, is steeped in lore and famed for its raw beauty. It will always be the land of the Vikings. It is here, however, that a tradition is dying. This is not due to any political or environmental concern. Children growing up here have stopped dreaming of being fishermen and whalers. Instead, they leave their hometowns to seek out urban jobs. On the Island of Røst, children are forced to leave the community early if they wish to attend high school, something that their tiny community cannot offer them.
Whaling, an activity formerly central to the Norwegian way of life, is fading in Lofoten. The Minke whale population in the North Atlantic is healthy at 130,000 animals and the yearly catch, around 500, does not even make a dent in this number. It is not the scarcity of the whales causing the decline. There just isn’t the interest that there used to be. In addition, the market for whale meat is thinning. Norwegians see the meat as a “Depression-era food” that’s un-environmental. CITES means that the international export market is also restricted.
In Røst, only two men in the past decade have decided to pursue a career in fishing. One young man, unable to afford a proper fishing boat, pulls cod in one by one. Similar to the whaling situation, the quantity of animals in the wild is plentiful, millions of cod come here to spawn, and the Lofoten climate is ideal for drying fish in open air to make stockfish, a kind of cod “jerky” that Vikings used to bring on their seafaring voyages. But, again, the interest is just not there.
Even the environmental activist groups that waged eco-war on these fishermen and whalers are now sitting quietly, waiting for the inevitable end.