Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issues permit to kill endangered fin whales

Feature story - October 18, 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.

Archive photo: Hvalfjörður whaling station in Iceland. Seagulls feeding on the carcass of a fin whale.

Today, the Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issued a permit to hunt 39 whales for commercial purposes.  Nine of these are endangered fin whales - putting to lie claims that the hunt is sustainable.  

The old Icelandic whale processing factory is also reportedly being put back into service.

Prior to today, Norway was the only country openly conducting commercial whaling.  Japan 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".  In both cases the meat is sold, mostly as a luxury food.

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

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

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