Anti-whaling campaigners are welcoming news that no fin whales will be killed in Iceland this summer.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986, but after Iceland returned to the IWC in 2002 after leaving in protest, it first used the scientific loophole and then resumed commercial whaling in 2006. Hunts were canceled in 2011 and 2012 because of a lack of demand for meat, but resumed yet again in 2013.
Despite a dwindling market for whale meat, public opposition and diplomatic measures, Iceland’s small industry hasn’t stopped and has instead continued to senselessly and violently slaughter whales in an unsustainable manner, all the while undermining global efforts to protect them.
Hundreds of whales have since lost their lives, and the toll it’s taking was brought back into the international spotlight last year after the nation’s lone fin whaling company Hvalur hf killed two blue/fin whale hybrids in violation of international law. Earlier this year, the nation drew further condemnation after the government issued new commercial whaling quotas that authorized whalers to kill up to 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales every year through 2023.
Now, however, there’s some good news for endangered fin whales who have been targeted in these hunts. Hvalur hf, the sole company that targets fin whales in Iceland, won’t be killing any – at least not this summer.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the decision was made because there wasn’t enough time to get the company’s two ancient whaling ships in working order, so they’re going to stay docked this year.
“This is good news for Iceland’s fin whales, but AWI will continue to monitor the situation, as the Hvalur company has temporarily suspended hunting in the past, only to resume,” said Kate O’Connell, marine wildlife consultant for AWI. “We remain concerned that repair work is continuing on these antiquated vessels and that the hunt will resume next year.”
While fin whales will be getting a reprieve this year, minke whales will still unfortunately be targeted – mainly to feed tourists, who are believed to be a major force supporting the demand for whale meat, which they are led to believe is a traditional food.
As anti-whaling campaigners continue to point out, not only is whaling cruel and unsustainable, it’s tarnishing Iceland’s international reputation and threatening it’s whale watching industry, which generates significant revenue for the country.
Hopefully more awareness about the issue and continued international pressure will help drive Iceland’s whaling industry into the past where it belongs, and whale watching will take its place as a far more lucrative and sustainable business.
If you’re going to be visiting Iceland, or know someone who is, check out IceWhale for more about whale-friendly restaurants and year-round whale watching opportunities.
Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Christin Khan