Staunch whaling nation, but for how long?

Press release - 16 September, 2003
The Rainbow Warrior this morning met with the Icelandic whaling vessel Sigurbjörg on the south coast of Iceland and documented the whale hunt. Meanwhile the Icelandic Government is reviewing the ongoing so called scientific whaling in Iceland. Last week the Icelandic Prime Minister indicated that no export markets means no whaling in the future and key players are now asking the Government to act on the Greenpeace-offer.

Minke caught by the whaling ship from Isafjordur in NW Iceland. Whalers cut the whale on board and place it in containers before bringing their boat in to the harbour.

"Time has come for an answer from the Government on the offer, and it should be a positive one.The Greenpeace proposal is good for the Icelandic people, for tourism and for the environment," says Fridrik Sigurdsson, Chairman of the Husavik Marketing Council.

Ten days ago Greenpeace offered the Icelandic Government a new chance to save their globally damaged reputation (1). In return Greenpeace urges the Government to stop whaling and not resume it under any guise.

"I want to send a short message to the government: Stop whaling and don´t start again. Whale watching is extremely important to us but it is impossible to expand when we do such a wrong thing as whale hunting. For us in Husavik it could be a disaster," says Fridrik


In an interview with Kyodo news September 10, Icelandic Prime Minister David Oddsson said that a decision by Iceland on whether it will resume commercial whaling may be affected by whether Japan will agree to buy whale meat from Iceland. "We could, in a very small scale, hunt whales for national consumption but that would be a very, very small scale. We are a small nation," he said.

"The Icelandic Government may just as well cancel all plans for whaling, since there will never be any export to Japan. International reactions and, ironically, toxic contamination of whale meat would stop that, says Frode Pleym, spokesperson for Greenpeace on the Rainbow Warrior in Seydisfjordur. (3.)

Supported by the arrival of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior last week, Greenpeace launched a public tour that is currently taking the ship around the country. The purpose of the tour is to engage in dialogue with the people of Iceland to support and interact with the existing local pressure on the Icelandic Government. The Rainbow Warrior was greeted by three vessels at sea when arriving in Husavik.

The Rainbow Warrior first sailed against Icelandic whaling on her maider voyage in 1978; many the countries that were whaling then are now strong opponents of commercial whaling. They accept that the oceans are severely degraded and that whales face a complex array of environmental threats including those posed by toxic chemicals, climate change and even noise pollution. In such circumstances it would be folly to restart whaling, especially when there is a truly sustainable alternative - whale watching.

Notes: (1). Through the Greenpeace website and other communications to our supporters, we will ask people around the world to participate in protecting vulnerable areas and species through appropriate opportunities, including visiting Iceland. As of today the pledge to the Icelandic Government numbered 5304. Read the full offer on It is estimated that about a dozen whale watching companies have been started in Iceland in the last ten years, generating US$8.5 million in 2001. Commercial whaling generated US$ 3-4 million between 1986-1989 when commercial hunts where stopped. 5.6.2003 (AP) Nationalities of tourists with overnight stays in Iceland: 13 % Germany, 11 % US, 10 % UK, 7% Sweden and 5 % Denmark.(3.) Japanese consumer groups say studies by the National Veterinary Institute in Oslo and the Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine have found the average concentration of PCBs in north-east Atlantic minke whales to be 3.8 parts per million (ppm). The provisional regulatory standard for PCBs in marine products in Japan is much lower, at 0.5 ppm