Iceland resumes commercial whaling

Feature story - November 1, 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; 26 nations delivered a formal diplomatic protest to the Icelandic government.

The Icelandic Fisheries Ministry has issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes.  Nine of these are endangered fin whales - proving claims that the hunt is sustainable are not true.  An old Icelandic whale processing factory is also reportedly being put back into service.

Norway used to be the only country openly conducting commercial whaling.  Japan currently 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".

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

A Gallup poll, commissioned by IFAW and released last month, found "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.

Update: October 21, 2006

A lone Icelandic whale hunter licensed to kill 39 whales made his first kill: an endangered Fin whale. View slideshow

"The fact that the first kill was an endangered whale makes a nonsense of claims 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.

Update: November 1, 2006

Today, 26 nations delivered a formal diplomatic protest to the Icelandic government. The protest was led by the UK and signed by nations from around the world including the US, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Finland and Sweden. It condemns the decision to resume commercial whaling, and the unilateral way it was carried out, saying:

"Similarly, Iceland has set its quota using criteria that have not been presented to or reviewed and approved by the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) Scientific Committee.

It deeply concerns us that the Icelandic Government awards itself a quota that has not been approved according to the applicable international provisions, before any possible effects on whale populations have been properly assessed and peer reviewed by those bodies recognised as competent to manage whale resources."

Also noted is the fact that fin whales are classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and that the trade in fin whales is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  

Iceland has a choice

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

This permit should be revoked before any more whales are killed! 

Whale watching and how you can help

Iceland is a stunning, pristine land that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, many of them to go whale watching in the clear arctic waters. Would you seriously consider taking a vacation in Iceland rather than somewhere else if the Government of Iceland stopped whaling?

Sign the whales tourism pledge

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