Iceland Suggests an End to Whaling by 2024

There's controversy, falling demand, and little economic gain.

whaling in Iceland
Whaling in Iceland. Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images

Iceland—one of only three countries that allows commercial whaling—could ban the practice within two years. A government official recently said she sees no reason to allow whaling once current regulations expire.

"There are few justifications to authorize whale hunting beyond 2024," when current quotas expire, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, minister of fisheries and agriculture, wrote in an op-ed in Morgunblaðið newspaper.

She wrote there is little proof that there is any economic advantage to whaling and said it is “undisputed” that whaling isn’t of great economic importance.

Japan and Norway are the only other countries that allow whaling.

Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 by an International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium. Norway officially objected to the moratorium when it was introduced and Iceland left the IWC and then rejoined several years later with a reservation to the moratorium. Japan left the group.

The countries must only hunt whales within certain economic zones and must provide information on their catches to the IWC.

Demand and Controversy

Iceland began "scientific whaling" in 2003 which, under the IWC, allows whaler permits in order to conduct scientific studies and then allows the rest of the whale to be processed. Iceland resumed commercial hunting in 2006.

According to the non-profit group Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), more than 1,700 fin, minke, and sei whales have been killed in Iceland since the global commercial whaling ban in 1986.

The group says 852 fin whales were killed in Iceland between 2006 and 2018, but then the group reports no whaling was done for the next three years. Over the past three years, the country’s two main whale-fishing companies either suspended hunting or chose to stop hunting for good.

In her op-ed, Svandís wrote that over the past three years, only one minke whale was killed and that was in 2021.

Demand for whale meat has dramatically declined in Japan (the main market for whale meat) since the country resumed commercial whaling in 2019. 

Svandis also points out whaling is controversial and mentions that at one time the U.S. food chain Whole Foods had stopped selling Icelandic products because of the uproar.

She asked why Iceland should continue controversial fishing when there is little demand and few economic benefits.

Counting Whales

Iceland’s annual quota, set in 2019, allows for the hunting of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales annually until 2023.

“We are determined to make use of our natural resources in a sustainable fashion, based on scientific opinion," then Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Kristjan Thor Juliusson said, when announcing the quota numbers.

"These quotas are based on scientific research. They are sustainable, they are monitored, and they're in line with international law."

Fin whales are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List with approximately 100,000 animals in the world. Sei whales are classified as endangered with about 50,000 animals left globally. Population statistics on minke whales is unknown, according to the IUCN.

View Article Sources
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