Whale watching or whale hunting?
Frode Pleym, our campaigner who toured Iceland in September
aboard our flagship, Rainbow Warrior, says this result is very
encouraging. "Half the population is open to Greenpeace and our
work." In the course of the visit in September, the ship's crew
spoke to thousands of Icelanders and found themselves challenging a
number of misconceptions.
"Some had no idea we worked on anything except Icelandic
whaling, many confused us with other groups which have sunk whaling
ships in the past. Few were aware that we had worked side by side
with Iceland for stronger environmental protection in many
Arni Finnsson, Chairman of Iceland Nature Conservation
Association, added "This strongly suggests that Icelanders do
appreciate Greenpeace work on protecting the environment and it
will probably elevate the debate on environmental issues in
Iceland. Addressing climate change and marine pollution are areas
of mutual concern for Greenpeace and Iceland."
We surprised many in Iceland by not taking a traditional
approach to the government's decision to kill 38 Minke whales as a
precursor to a new commercial hunt. Instead of putting boats in
front of harpoons, we made our case direct to the Icelandic people
and our own supporters to demonstrate that whales are worth more to
Iceland alive than dead, and to try to communicate our reasons for
opposing whaling in a less polarizing manner.
It is estimated that about a dozen whale watching companies have
been started in Iceland in the last ten years, generating US$8.5
million in 2001. Commercial whaling generated US$3-4 million
between 1986 and 1989, when commercial hunts were stopped. An
Icelandic flag in one whale-watching town was flown at half-mast
when the Icelandic government announced the renewal of whaling.
Among other domestic opponents to a new whaling program is
Iceland's tourist industry. The Prime Minister of Iceland recently
acknowledged that many people in Iceland who make their livings
from tourist revenue are worried about the impact of whaling. "In
marketing terms, it's a ten-year step backward" said one Icelandic
public relations manager.
Many Icelanders remember the massive boycotts of Icelandic fish
which drove the government to abandon whaling more than a decade
We have taken a different tack for now, and made an offer to the
Icelandic government to promote Iceland as a nature tourism
destination if the decision to recommence whaling is reversed. More
than 13,000 people have pledged so far to visit Iceland if the
government ends plans to renew hunting, representing a potential
income of up to US$2 million. Over the next several months, we are
aiming to generate tens of thousands more pledges for a total
potential tourist value of US$15 million.
Thirty six Minke whales were caught this autumn in Iceland's
so-called scientific whaling programme. The government plan to
expand the hunt to include sei and fin whales, perhaps as early as
But with help from our supporters, we'll be returning to Iceland
next year with a US$15 million incentive for the Icelandic
government to give up the whale hunt. It's a small price to pay for
an end to Icelandic whaling.
"I would seriously consider taking a
vacation in Iceland if the government of Iceland stopped
I would be willing to receive an email
about the options available for Icelandic tourism, an email that
would be sent to me if the Government of Iceland ends its whaling
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