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NAMMCO At 30: Marine Mammals in Cultural Traditions and Identity

"Eating marine mammals is our national identity," said the participants from Greenland. Their unity of viewpoint impressed this first-time participant.



NAMMCO marine mammals
A photo of the author and the people in traditional costumes dancing the chain dance. (© Aya Matsuda)

The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, NAMMCO, is a rare international organization that openly supports discussions around hunting marine mammals held to be sacrosanct in much of the world, such as whales, dolphins and seals.

This year is the 30th anniversary of NAMMCO’s founding. To mark the event, the group held a conference and food event in the Faroe Islands, with attendees from both member countries and other nations, both pro and anti-whaling, around the world. 

Aya Matsuda, a student at the prestigious Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, attended the event. Matsuda’s reports on her experiences were originally written in Japanese for the Suisan-Keizai Daily News

Second of 3 parts

1st Part: NAMMCO at 30: Proudly Supporting Discussions on the Sustainable Use of Marine Mammals

NAMMCO marine mammals
Video message from a Greenlandic minister. As a self-governing government, I could feel the determination to eat what nature provides.) (© Aya Matsuda)

The two days of presentations at this 30th NAMMCO covered a broad range of topics related to the sustainable use of marine mammals. Speakers covered health and nutrition, intangible cultural heritage, identity, economic rationality, environmental protection, food contamination, food safety, and food security.

Through the NAMMCO, distant regions were invited to collaborate. Voices from local communities across the North Atlantic were able to participate directly in the international discussions. 

Participants didn’t limit themselves to conclusions from their home regions. Instead, they pursued the larger theme of how to utilize marine mammals as food resources, adding their cultural identities to the broader picture.

Four themes, summaries by moderators for each section. Moderators came from various countries, including Iceland, France, Norway, and the Faroe Islands. (© Aya Matsuda)
Mr Masaki Wada from Taiji Town gave a lecture about whaling and whale food culture in Japan. (© Aya Matsuda)

Eating Marine Mammals as National Identity

The meeting set out to broaden understanding on a large scale of conflicting issues, such as the contrast between global and local perspectives. It also took on the dilemma of tradition livelihoods versus urbanite lifestyles, along with the risk and rewards of different foods. 

Still, the participants were cognizant that in the end choices will be made by individuals. And decisions will be made by individual regions and countries.

Personally, I was most impressed by the participants from Greenland, who were united in asserting that "Eating marine mammals is our national identity."

Continues in part 3.

(You can read the rest of this story and learn more about NAMMCO at this link. This article is published in cooperation with the Institute of Cetacean Research. It was first published in Japanese by the Suisan-Keizai Daily News. Let us hear your thoughts in our comments section.)


(Read the report in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Aya Matsuda

(Photos © Suisan-Keizai by Aya Matsuda)