Result! One country down, two to go. Norway and Japan are the only two countries left flying in the face of world opinion, after Iceland's fisheries minister, Einar K. Guofinnsson was quoted by Reuters as saying

"The whaling industry, like any other industry, has to obey the market. If there is no profitability there is no foundation for resuming with the killing of whales".

Guofinnsson said he won't issue a new quota until the "market conditions for whale meat improve" and permission to export whale products to Japan is secured. Presumably, the 5,000 tonnes of whalemeat currently sitting in Japan's coldrooms will need to get sold first.

I had a sense this might happen - while I was at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Anchorage this year, the newly elected Icelandic foreign minister, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, practically disowned her country's pro-whaling commissioner, saying "we are sacrificing greater interests for lesser ones in this issue". She was referring, of course, to Iceland losing tourism revenue for the sake of a ridiculous whale hunt.

There's hardly any market for whalemeat in Iceland, and Japan is unwilling to purchase North Atlantic whale meat because of fears of contamination, so this year's hunt has been a disaster. Iceland's whalers have only manage to kill 7 minkes and 7 fin whales. They didn't make public the results of contamination testing on the whale meat, and well, no one seems interested in buying their product!

Apart from this disastrous commercial hunt, Iceland conducts a separate "scientific" hunt for minke whales. Beginning in 2003, this was supposed to be a 2-year project to kill 200 whales in 2003. There's one more month of the 2007 whaling season left, yet the scientific hunt is still 6 whales short of that quota, despite four years of whaling.

The "leftover" whalemeat from this so-called "scientific" is also destined for dinner tables, if when they can sell it. The Icelandic minister is recognising that there's simply no market for the meat from the commercial hunt - but he might as well face up to another hard fact: there's just no legitimate scientific reason for killing whales at all!

The Scientific Committee of the IWC reviewed Iceland's scientific programme, and decided not to support it. After all, whale experts from around the world have already ably demonstrated viable alternatives to lethal research - making the killing whales for science completely unnecessary.

Scientific whaling is, after all, just commercial whaling through a loophole. In the absence of either a scientific or commercial rationale, Iceland should simply announce an end to whaling.

There's a good economic reason for Iceland to do, as Ms. Gisladottir intimated . Sparing the six minkes remaining in the scientific quota could earn Icelandic tourism a bonus of $US116.9 million from the 122,000 Greenpeace supporters worldwide who have pledged to consider a visit to Iceland if whaling stops. All the minister has to do is announce he's hanging up the harpoons.

Easy, eh?

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