Norway's sixth-month whaling season began on Saturday (1 April), with a quota raised from 880 last year to 999. The season begins shortly after a documentary was aired revealing that the vast majority of minke whales hunted along the Norwegian coast are pregnant females.

An estimated 90% of the minke whales that will be hunted in the coming months are pregnant females, according to a recent documentary by Norway's public broadcaster NRK.

These minke whales are thought to be part of a population that also lives in UK waters, according to the Humane Society International. When the minke whales leave UK waters, they could be hunted by Norwegian whalers.

Claire Bass, director of HSI UK, said in a statement: "It is shocking to think that these magnificent whales who swim safely in British waters, could fall victim to a brutal and bloody death simply to have their meat shrink-wrapped and sold for profit in Norwegian and Japanese supermarkets."

The group called on the UK's minster for food and rural affairs George Eustice to condemn Norway's whaling activity.

"The EU's position on Norway's commercial whaling has been lamentably weak, so now that the UK prepares to divorce itself from the EU, we'd like to see our government taking a much firmer line to condemn this slaughter," Bass said.

'Dying industry'

Despite the raised quota, the number of whales Norway has actually killed has not reached the previous lower quota due to low demand for whale meat. Greenpeace has called whaling a "dying industry", as consumers move away from using the meat. The Norwegian government argues that whale is a traditional part of the diet in the country.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986. Norway is able to continue commercial whaling because it raised an objection to the moratorium at the time.

Norway whaling
Norway 2016 commercial whaling Michael Tenten

Iceland also continues commercial whaling as it refuses to recognise the IWC ban. Last year, the only commercial whaling company in the country announced it would not kill any more endangered fin whales.

Japan also has an active whaling programme, which it says is for research purposes. However, the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that this activity should be stopped because it was not scientific.

Japan's most recent Antarctic whaling mission ended on Friday, returning after killing 333 whales in the Southern Ocean. Japan aims to kill up to 4,000 whales in the next 12 years, with the goal of eventually resuming commercial whaling.

Norway whaling
Norway commercial whaling 2016 Michael Tenten