Iceland halts fin whaling

08.05.2012 - 12:20

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has welcomed the news that Iceland has called an end to the cruel practice of harpooning endangered fin whales.

Kristjan Loftsson, the lone Icelandic whaler, is responsible for killing 280 fin whales in Icelandic waters over the past six years. He has now abandoned plans to train his harpoons on the whales in 2012, according to Icelandic media reports. Loftsson’s whaling has put Iceland at risk of diplomatic action by the United States over its commercial whaling activities. US President Barack Obama announced last September that Iceland faced up to six different possible diplomatic measures in condemnation of its continued whaling.  

In July 2011, US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke invoked the Pelly Amendment and certified Iceland for its continued slaughter of both fin and minke whales, stating that Iceland’s disregard for the global ban on commercial whaling was ‘unacceptable’.

IFAW, which has worked alongside Icelandic whale watch operators for several years to promote whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling, welcomed the decision.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “We are delighted to hear that no more fin whales will be cruelly and needlessly slaughtered in Iceland. We are also pleased to hear Mr Loftsson acknowledge that this outdated industry is uneconomic. This is exactly what IFAW-commissioned research has shown over recent years; it is just a shame that 280 fin whales had to die in this failed commercial experiment.”

Icelandic media reports today that Loftsson failed to reach collective agreement with the Association of Icelandic Fishermen on salaries and conditions for deckhands and that he believes the market for whale meat in Japan has still not recovered since the 2011 tsunami.

Loftsson regularly exports relatively small amounts of fin whale meat to his own company in Japan, but has yet to find a demand for the meat on the Japanese market.

Sadly, however, commercial hunting of minke whales in Iceland continues. IFAW urges Iceland to end all whaling and instead work to promote responsible whale watching.

In total, 58 minke whales were killed in Iceland last season, by two companies. This was from a self-allocated catch limit of 216. The first minke whales of the 2012 whaling season were harpooned in recent weeks.

In 2011 IFAW launched its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland, encouraging tourists visiting the country to support responsible whale watching but to avoid sampling whale meat. The campaign will continue this summer.