Whaling season begins

Feature story - 7 May, 2004
The harpoons are ready, and the whaling season has begun. The Norwegian government plans to take 670 minke whales in the only openly-declared commercial whale hunt in the world, while the Japanese government aim to kill 210 minke, Bryde's, sei and sperm whales in the north-western Pacific in a so called "Scientific" whaling programme. Iceland, the world's third whaling nation, has not yet made a decision on this year's take or if their "scientific" research programme will continue.

You can help prove to Iceland that whales are worth more alive than dead: promise a future trip there if the government stops whaling.

Norway, normally a country which prides itself on abiding by international law, violates a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling with every whale it harpoons.

"The real reason behind the hunt is the absurd and unscientific claim that whales are eating too many fish and as a result harming fisheries. Whales are a natural part of the ecosystem and the real cause of declining fish catches is over fishing, not hungry whales," says our whale campaigner John Frizell.

Norway falsely portrays the hunt as serving local needs. But the Norwegian market is saturated with whale meat. Despite desperate publicity efforts, freezers in Norwegian supermarkets are piled high with unsold whale meat from the 2003 hunt. Japan claims it only hunts whales for 'scientific' reasons. Yet the body for which the "research" is being done, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), does not need the data, and has called for the programme to be ended.

All the meat from caught whales, except sperm whale meat, which is too toxic to eat, will be sold on the open market in Japan. The "researchers" sold 3,000 tonnes of whale meat last year for US$52 million.

Greenpeace has been campaigning against whaling for thirty years. We've put activists in front of harpoons, lobbyists at conventions, and scientists out on the ocean. Today we're asking supporters to pledge a future vacation to Iceland to save the whales: starkly demonstrating that the value of whale watching and tourism to Iceland far exceeds the commercial value of whaling.

Ending whaling in Iceland would play an important role in stopping the pro-whaling lobby group, led by the Japanese government, and Greenpeace is concentrating effort on convincing Iceland to declare independence from the whaling nations.

Supported by the Rainbow Warrior, we embarked on a public tour in Iceland in September 2003 to present an offer to the Icelandic Government which shows the clear economic and environmental gain in choosing tourism over whaling.

Visit Iceland, save whales

Our supporters worldwide have been recruiting friends and family to pledge to visit Iceland if the government stops whaling. So far, more than 37,000 people have signed up. This represents a tourism value of more than US$40 million to Iceland, as compared to an annual whale hunt value of just US$3-4 million. The fact is undeniable: whales are worth more to Iceland alive than dead.

Ásbjörn Björgvinsson, chairman of the Icelandic Whale watching Association, has sent a letter to Members of Parliament in the North-Eastern constituency, stating his worries over the ten-fold decrease in bookings of foreign tourists for whale watching trips this spring. "It is not only the whale watching companies that lose money on this, but all other tourist companies in the area, such as hotels, restaurants, bus companies, various suppliers and airlines that move these people to and around the country." Ásbjörn says that their business partner in the UK, the travel agency Discover the World, thinks that the main reason for this decline in bookings is likely to be the whaling of Iceland. Ásbjörn says that his letter encourages the politicians to react to this threat and end whaling this summer.

"Iceland is just a tool used by the whaling lobby. Japan and Norway persuaded Iceland to join them in whaling so they will be less isolated. If Iceland gives up whaling, it will defeat the move by the whalers to expand the number of countries in an effort to make whaling more respectable," said Greenpeace campaigner Frode Pleym.

Greenpeace will be campaigning at the annual IWC meeting in Italy this July for the moratorium on whaling to be respected and for the IWC to shift its focus away from catching whales to the conservation of whales.

"Commercial whaling has always been a disaster for whales, driving populations down to tiny remnants. The only management scheme for whaling that shows any signs of success is the moratorium on commercial whaling and we want it maintained," concluded Frizell.

Take action!

Break the whaling alliance of Japan, Norway, and Iceland by convincing Iceland that the world believes whales are more valuable alive than dead. Take the pledge to visit Iceland's beautiful shores if the government stops whaling.