Whales will be safe from the harpoons for a second consecutive year as two of Iceland’s whaling companies will not be hunting again this summer.
This is great news for the population of Fin whales – the second largest animal on Earth – which had previously been harpooned in Iceland for specific exportation to the whale meat market in Japan, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has reported.
According to Icelandic media reports, and IFAW, fin whaling crusader and Chief Executive of Iceland’s only fin whaling company Hvalur – Kristjan Loftsson – cited export difficulties with Japan as well as current COVID-19 restrictions in Iceland as reasons not to use his harpoons again this summer.
Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, Managing Director of minke whaling company IP-Utgerd, told news agency AFP whaling was no longer financially viable and that he was stopping minke whaling for good.
More than 1,500 Fin whales have been killed in Iceland since 2003 – the year the country resumed commercial whaling after a 13-year hiatus – often hunted not only for the meat market but to feed curious tourists in the country.
IFAW’s Marine Conservation Programme Director Patrick Ramage said: “It is now clear that what we are seeing is the end of Icelandic whaling, which is good news for whales, good news for Iceland and good news for marine conservation worldwide.
“IFAW salutes and commends our long-time partners and friends in Iceland who have been working to end the cruel and wasteful killing of fin whales and minke whales in Icelandic waters and to end consumption of whale meat by international tourists.”
IFAW has worked with Icelanders since this time to promote responsible whale watching as an alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
Ramage added: “Icelanders themselves are the ones driving the decision to end whaling, for reasons that make sense to them. We are proud to together welcome this milestone and will continue working to advance marine conservation in Icelandic waters and progress Iceland’s world-class whale watching industry.
“From Japan to Iceland, Europe to North America, Australia to Latin America, responsible whale watching is delivering economic benefits and a brighter future to coastal communities worldwide.”
In cooperation with local whale watch operators, IFAW runs a ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign designed to inform tourists about the reality of whaling and whale meat consumption, as well as a ‘Whale Friendly’ restaurant scheme encouraging restaurants to offer a menu free from whale meat.
Whale watching is one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, attracting more than 350,000 customers each year and generating almost £17.5 million annually, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.