Iceland abandons Fin whale hunt – For now

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IFAW welcomes end to Fin whaling in Iceland

May 2012. TheInternational 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 responsible for killing 280 Fin whales over the last six years (Seven Fin whales were killed in Iceland’s waters in 2006, 125 in 2009 and 148 in 2010.) cited difficulties in trading the meat with Japan following its tsunami tragedy as a reason for cancelling last year’s hunt. He has now abandoned plans to train his harpoons on the whales in 2012, according to Icelandic media reports.

Sun reflecting off a Fin Whales back

Whale watching possibilities

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.

280 Fin whales have been killed since 2006.

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 We are also pleased to hear Mr Loftsson acknowledge that this outdated industry is uneconomic.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 whatIFAW-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 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.

Fin whale about to sound

Minke whale hunt continues

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 2011IFAWlaunched 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.

Threat of US sanctions

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’.

He recommended a series of diplomatic measures including linking US cooperation on Arctic projects to Iceland’s whaling policy and ensuring US delegations and senior Administration officials raise US concerns, evaluating the appropriateness of visits to Iceland and monitoring the activities.

Two fin whales

Published in Wildlife Extra

Footnote by Nic Slocum

We can but hope we are starting to see the end of this barbaric practice. It is calculated that the average time it takes for a minke or fin whale to die following grenade detonation after a harpoon strike is three minutes. Clearly some are killed instantly following grenade detonation while other have been documented as “thrashing” on the harpoon line for 30 minutes while whalers attempt to dispatch the animal with rifle fire or electric lance. If this was a land mammal it would not be tolerated. Iceland, Norway and Japan are alone in conducting commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium. Japan conducts their whaling programme under the guise of “scientific” whaling, a loophole in the moratorium that allows the killing of whales for research purposes.

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic maintains a lifelong passion for using the written word to promote the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on both radio and TV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in regional and national newspapers. Nic is a director of Whale Watch West Cork.com and Whales World Wide.com

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum

Nic Slocum is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both in Ireland and overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic maintains a lifelong passion for using the written word to promote the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on both radio and TV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in regional and national newspapers. Nic is a director of Whale Watch West Cork.com and Whales World Wide.com

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Carol Duke
Carol Duke

Thank you for this great post Nic! Great news about the Fin Whale . . . hopefully more pressure will bring the other countries round. Truly horrific!