On 3 February, the new Icelandic interim government announced
that it will be reviewing the increased whaling quota by the former
fisheries minister, and that a decision would be announced in the
coming days. Iceland's whaling industry has been informed that a
change to last week's announcement may be imminent.
Greenpeace welcomes this move by the new government, and hopes
that it not only reverses the decision - but ends Icelandic whaling
Greenpeace also hopes that the new government finds useful the
information contained in a letter from Greenpeace International
Executive Director Dr. Gerd Leipold, sent on 2 February. The letter
details why whaling is bad for Iceland and will not solve any of
the country's economic problems. It also counters the claims of the
whaling lobby that a large market exists, while pointing out that
tourism in general, and whale watching in particular represents a
far more viable financial future for Iceland.
Dr. Leipold's letter was sent to:
Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Minister for Finance, Fisheries and Agriculture, Steingrímur J.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Industry, Energy and Tourism,
Minister for the Environment, Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir
The text of this letter is included below:
My Greenpeace colleagues and I, and the conservation community
as a whole, are surprised and deeply disappointed to learn that the
outgoing Minister for Fisheries has announced a massive increase in
Iceland's whaling quota that will see hundreds of minke whales and
endangered fin whales hunted over the next five years. This is a
very unwise decision, which will provide no economic benefit to
Iceland, and I hope it will be quickly reversed.
The outgoing Minister for Fisheries appears to have been
influenced by a recent campaign by supporters of whaling in
Iceland, which began with an advertisement in Frettabladid and
Morgunbladid on January 9th, headlined 'Let's start whaling'.
Follow-up stories appeared in the international press, leaving the
impression that there is an open and burgeoning market for whale
meat in Japan, with good prices being paid. They claim both
significant export income and job creation. These claims and
assumptions are wrong.
- The market for whale meat in Japan is weak, with over 3,000
tonnes of minke whale meat currently in frozen storage. The amount
increases and decreases during the year but has not dropped below
2300 tonnes for five years. One of Japan's leading newspapers,
Asahi Shimbun, reported on November 13th last year that Japan's
'research' operation in the Antarctic was cutting its planned take
from 935 minkes to 700, because of the low demand.
- The minke meat from Norway, which accompanied the exported
Icelandic fin whale meat, has still not cleared customs. Part of
the fin whale shipment remains unsold, seven months after it was
air-freighted to Japan.
- As well as minke whales, Japan produces meat from Sei whales,
caught in the North Pacific and from fin whales, caught in the
Antarctic. The catch of Sei whales in 2008 was 50, and much of the
meat remains unsold. The quota of fin whales for this year's hunt
in the Antarctic is 50.
- Most whales caught by Japan in the North Pacific, and all
whales caught in the Antarctic are processed on board one factory
ship. The company, which operates the factory ship, is in charge of
marketing all whale meat from these operations and so controls the
market. This company will not welcome competition from Iceland or
Norway given that the market is already saturated and product is
hard to sell. The whaling company's first priority is to sell its
own product - they are clearly unable to do so, as the backlog and
the scaling back of this year's catch demonstrate.
- Whale imports are considered by the Japanese authorities on a
case-by- case basis. Although one shipment from Iceland has been
authorized, this does not mean that future shipments will be
- Over 90% of the meat to be produced by the increased quota
would come from endangered fin whales which are not eaten in
Iceland and are only caught for export. Whaling does not and will
not benefit Iceland or the Icelandic economy. In fact, whaling has
a negative affect on the Iceland brand, and the general credibility
of Iceland's image as a responsible country that upholds
sustainable management of natural resources.
As Iceland looks to the future I urge you to keep two points in
- Even a small increase in tourists going to Iceland for whale
watching will create and secure more jobs and more money than
whaling. Last year about 115,000 people went whale watching in
Iceland. Over 20% of these stated whale watching as an important
reason for coming to Iceland, spending millions of US$ in revenue
in the process. A further 115,000 people have signed a pledge
stating that they will consider visiting Iceland if Iceland stops
- Tourism in general and whale watching in particular promote the
beauty of Iceland's environment, and are worth far more to the
Icelandic economy than whaling is or ever can be. The image of
Iceland as an industrial whaling nation, in the business of
catching whales and shipping them around the world for consumption
as luxury goods, will certainly not help promote tourism or
Iceland's image internationally.
- Whaling belongs to the past and I hope the outgoing Minister's
decision can be quickly reversed by Iceland's new government.
Thank you for your attention,
Executive Director Greenpeace International
Other contacts: Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International Communications, in Dublin, +353872207023Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Campaign coordinator, in Amsterdam, +31 615007406 Martin Norman, Greenpeace Nordic Media, in Oslo, +47 95804950
Notes:  The full statement can be found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/greenpeace-condemns-iceland-s