- The Icelandic government has announced that commercial whaling will recommence following a two-month suspension of the activity, albeit with increased monitoring and stricter hunting regulations.
- The government temporarily banned whaling in June due to animal welfare concerns, but the ban expired on Aug. 31.
- The decision to restart whaling has drawn criticism from environmentalists and animal rights advocates.
- Only one company in Iceland currently has a whaling license, and it’s set to expire this year, with no guarantee the government will renew it for the coming years.
The Icelandic government has announced that commercial whaling can resume after the activity was suspended for more than two months.
In June, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the country’s minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, postponed this year’s planned whale hunt until Aug. 31 due to animal welfare concerns. However, the government has now said in a statement that whaling will be able to recommence with increased monitoring and stricter regulations around hunting methods.
Arne Feuerhahn, founder of Hard to Port, a German organization that opposes the Icelandic whale hunts, said that two whaling vessels belonging to Hvalur hf, the only company that currently holds a whaling license in Iceland, are preparing to go out and hunt fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus). However, Feuerhahn said it’s unlikely the vessels will leave Sept. 1 due to an approaching storm.
Iceland’s decision to allow whaling to recommence has drawn criticism from environmentalists and animal rights advocates.
“It is deplorable that this cruel practice has been allowed to resume,” Nicolas Entrup, director of international relations at the NGO OceanCare, said in a statement. “We are bitterly disappointed by the decision which entirely goes against the clear facts that are available to the government and people of Iceland. We can almost be certain that the Icelandic whalers will not meet the imposed requirements. This cruel, unnecessary and outdated practice needs to stop.”
Hvalur hf’s whaling license is set to expire in 2023. It’s unclear if Iceland will allow whaling to continue in the coming years.
Svavarsdóttir enacted a whaling suspension in June after the release of a government-commissioned independent report found that the whale hunts didn’t comply with animal welfare laws. The report noted that 41% of whales harpooned in the Icelandic hunts didn’t die immediately but suffered long after being shot.
On Aug. 28, a working group of experts appointed by the Icelandic government said they believed the whale hunting methods could be approved.
In a recent interview with local media, Kristján Loftsson, managing director of Hvalur hf, argued that hunting whales will help Iceland meet its climate goals, since whales exhale large amounts of carbon dioxide, and their feces and urine cause algae to grow in Icelandic waters.
Clare Perry, the senior ocean adviser for U.K.-based NGO the Environmental Investigation Agency, called Loftsson’s claims “ludicrous.”
“In fact, the reverse is true,” Perry said in a statement, “whales, including fin whales, provide vital and unique ocean ecosystem services, including capturing carbon from the atmosphere.”
Elizabeth Claire Alberts is a senior staff writer for Mongabay. Follow her on Twitter @ECAlberts.
Banner image: Two fin whales hunted in Iceland in 2009. Two whaling vessels belonging to Hvalur hf are preparing to go out and hunt fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus). Image by Dagur Brynjólfsson via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).