Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issues permit to kill endangered fin whales

Iceland resumes commercial whaling

Feature story - October 17, 2006
In Iceland, the whale watching industry contributes more to the national economy than commercial whaling did before it was put on hold in the '80s. Yet now, after 17 years, Iceland has officially resumed commercial whaling.

Archive photo: Hvalfjörður whaling station in Iceland. Seagulls feeding on the carcass of a fin whale.

Today, the Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes.  Nine of these are endangered fin whales - putting to lie claims that the hunt is sustainable.  

The old Icelandic whale processing factory is also reportedly being put back into service.

Prior to today, Norway was the only country openly conducting commercial whaling.  Japan conducts a large yearly hunt using the pretence of "scientific whaling" to keep its industry alive.  Since 2003, Iceland has also engaged in so called "scientific whaling".  In both cases the meat is sold, mostly as a luxury food.

Update Saturday, 21 October 2006

A lone Icelandic whale hunter licensed to kill 39 whales made his first kill today: an endangered Fin whale. (Pictures here)

"There is no economic or scientific justification for commercial whaling. The fact that the first kill was an endangered whale makes a nonsense ofclaims that the hunt is sustainable," says our campaigner JohnFrizell. "Iceland has no market for whale meat internationally and almost none domestically. This hunt is no more than pointless posturing, which achieves nothing except the further depletion of an endangered species," he added.

In addition to the Iceland hunt, next month the Japanese whaling fleet will sail to Southern Ocean, with plans to kill nearly 1,000 whales - including endangered Fin whales.  Japan has announced plans to begin hunting humpbacks in future as well.

The question of why?

Kristjan Loftsson, managing director of the Icelandic whaling company, is said to be "pleased" about receiving the hunt permit.  But the question remains: why kill whales?  Why try to revive a dying industry with a long history of deception and mismanagement?

There is a glut of unwanted meat in Iceland, Norway and Japan.  In Iceland, they haven't even sold the meat from earlier "scientific" hunts.  There simply is not much of a market for the stuff.  

A Gallup poll, commissioned by IFAW and released last month, found that, "Only 1.1 percent of Icelanders eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat."  Not very optimistic numbers for a business venture.

Whale watching and how you can help

Iceland has a choice.  Most Icelanders are environmentally conscious, and in favour of using marine resources in a way that preserves them for future generations.  Its whale watching industry is known around the world, and brings in more revenue than whaling possibly could.  Yet, the Fisheries Ministry has done a favour for a very small interest group, and granted a permit for commercial whaling.

This permit should be revoked before the first whale is killed.  You can help by signing the Icelandic pledge.  Tens of thousands of people have pledged to consider visiting Iceland as tourists and whale watchers, but only AFTER the whale killing ends. 

Take action

Lend your voice to Icelandic people opposing whaling.

Discuss this article in  "Louder than Words," the Greenpeace Forum

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