Iceland stops commercial whale hunt

Feature story - August 24, 2007
In a setback to the whaling industry worldwide, Iceland's fisheries minister has just announced he will not issue any more commercial whale-hunting quotas.

Iceland announced last year a return to commercial whaling and a quota of 30 minke whales and 9 fins.  But with virtually no market in Iceland and fears of contamination making Japan unwilling to purchase North Atlantic whale meat, the hunt has been a disaster. Icelandic whalers have killed only 7 minkes and 7 fin whales, haven't made public the results of contamination testing on the whale meat, and can't seem to convince anyone to buy their product.

Reuters quotes the Icelandic minister as saying "The whaling industry, like any other industry, has to obey the market. If there is no profitability there is no foundation for resuming with the killing of whales," he said.

The minister said he will not issue a new quota until the market conditions for whale meat improve and permission to export whale products to Japan is secured.

Here's news, minister: there's no market for the meat in Japan either. Japan is having trouble selling the thousands of tons of whale meat it already has in storage from its own Southern Pacific "scientific" hunt.

So while the minister's statement is short of declaring an end to Icelandic whaling, it is unlikely that market conditions for whale meat are going to improve, and even more unlikely that Japan will purchase the meat.  

Iceland conducts a separate "scientific" hunt for minke whales. This was intended to be a 2 year program to hunt 200 whales, begun in 2003. Yet with only one more month of the 2007 whaling season left, the scientific hunt is still 6 whales short of that quota, despite four years of whaling. 

Meat from this so called "scientific" hunt also ends up on dinner tables, when they can sell it.

While the Icelandic minister is recognizing that there's simply no market for the meat from the commercial hunt, he might as well face up to another hard fact: there's no legitimate scientific reason for killing whales.

The Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) reviewed Iceland's scientific programme, and decided not to support it.  Whale experts around the world have demonstrated viable alternatives to lethal research which makes killing whales for science unnecessary.  

Scientific whaling is just commercial whaling through a loophole. In the absence of either a scientific or commercial rationale, Iceland should simply announce an end to whaling.

There's a good economic reason for Iceland end the hunt.  Sparing the six minkes remaining in the scientific quota could earn Icelandic tourism a bonus of $116.9 million from the 122,000 Greenpeace supporters worldwide who have pledged to consider a visit to Iceland if whaling stops.  All the minister has to do is announce he's hanging up the harpoons.