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June 20, 2018 – Harpoons are being trained on endangered fin whales in Icelandic waters for the first time in three years this summer.
Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur hf, the only company involved in Icelandic fin whaling, announced his intention to resume killing the planet’s second largest whale species earlier this year and the first of his whaling vessels has now left port to begin the hunt, with a quota of 190 fin whales. Loftsson’s company last killed 155 fin whales in 2015, chiefly for the Japanese market. There had been no fin whaling in Iceland since this time, after Loftsson cited difficulties in trading the meat with Japan.
Minke whaling is also currently taking place in Iceland with a self-allocated annual kill quota of 269 minke whales, though a fraction of this quota is usually taken. A total of 17 minke whales were harpooned during last summer’s whaling season, compared to 46 in 2016. While fin whale meat has not traditionally been eaten by Icelanders, minke whale meat is sold within the country, though the majority of it is eaten by curious tourists.
IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale. There is also little appetite for whale meat among Icelanders with recent Gallup polling commissioned by IFAW showing only 1% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly and 81% have never eaten it. Polling also revealed that Icelandic support for fin whaling has significantly reduced, with 35.4% now declaring they are in favour of fin whaling, compared to 42% in 2016. Just four years ago, similar polling found 56.9% in favour of fin whaling, around 20% higher.*
Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Marine Conservation Programme Director, said: “We are very disappointed that Mr Loftsson has decided to once again train his harpoons on endangered fin whales for meat that nobody needs or wants. We encourage him to abandon this outdated and uneconomic whale killing which is damaging to Iceland’s international reputation.”
In conjunction with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, IFAW works to educate tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat through its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign. The percentage of tourists who claimed to have tasted whale meat in Iceland was 40% according to research carried out in 2009. Since the launch of Meet Us Don’t Eat Us in 2011 this figure has been drastically reduced, with IFAW surveys revealing 11.4% of tourists in Iceland had sampled whale meat in 2017.
Ramage added: “IFAW has long said that responsible whale watching, rather than whale killing, is better for both whales and Iceland’s tourism industry. With the global movement for whale conservation having far more support than whaling, we also encourage the Icelandic government to issue no further whaling quotas to ensure that commercial whaling is consigned to the history books where it belongs.”
Whale watching is one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £20 million annually. More than 350,000 people go whale watching each year in Iceland, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.
More than half of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have signed up to be ‘Whale Friendly’ with a pledge not to serve whale meat, and less than 10% of restaurants in this area have whale meat on their menus.
To support IFAW’s efforts to protect whales in Iceland, find out more about Meet Us Don’t Eat Us or to sign our whales petition visit www.ifaw.is
*This survey was carried out by Gallup between October 4 and 11, 2017, to survey Icelanders’ attitudes to whale hunting. It used a sample size of 1,448. The survey was carried out online across Iceland targeting only those aged 18 years and over randomly selected from Gallup’s Internet Panel. Total number of respondents was 859, with 589 not responding, giving a total response rate of 59.3%. Full results are available on request.
Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit organisation that protects animals and the places they call home. With offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40, we rescue, rehabilitate and release animals into secure landscapes around the world. In collaboration with both governments and local communities, our experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time. www.ifaw.org