Iceland Grants the Last Whaling Company Hunting License

Iceland Grants the Last Whaling Company Hunting License



Iceland has granted a license to Europe’s last whaling company, Hvalur, to kill 128 fin whales this year, a move that has sparked widespread condemnation from animal rights groups. This decision comes after hopes were raised that the practice might be halted due to concerns about the cruelty involved, which led to a temporary suspension last year.

Fin whales, the second-largest mammals in the world, are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their populations have slowly recovered since commercial whaling bans were introduced in many countries in the 1970s. However, Iceland and Japan continue to allow fin whaling, jeopardizing these fragile gains.

Animal welfare advocates have expressed their profound disappointment and alarm over Iceland’s decision. Kristján Loftsson, the head of Hvalur, now has the government’s backing to resume the hunt, despite evidence of the extreme suffering inflicted on these creatures.

A government-commissioned report from last year revealed that harpooned whales can take up to two hours to die, prompting new regulations intended to reduce their suffering. Unfortunately, these measures have not proven effective.

Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, Iceland’s food, fisheries, and agriculture minister, stated that her decision to issue the permit was dictated by existing laws and regulations, even though it contradicted her personal views and those of  Leeen Movement party. This decision has set a dangerous precedent for the future of commercial whaling globally and undermines international Conservation efforts.

Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, criticized the decision, emphasizing that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea without causing immense suffering. Luke McMillan of Whale and Dolphin Conservation echoed these sentiments saying, “It is unbelievable and deeply disappointing that the Icelandic government has granted [this], defying extensive scientific and economic evidence against such actions.”

The resumption of whaling in Iceland is not just a step back for animal welfare but also poses a significant threat to the Conservation of fin whales, who continue to face pressures from Climate change and other environmental factors. Although their numbers are reportedly increasing, they were classified as endangered as recently as 2018.

Iceland’s previous fisheries minister had suspended whaling following a report that concluded the 2022 hunt did not comply with animal welfare laws. This report, by Iceland’s food and veterinary authority, Mast, found that some whales took an agonizing two hours to die. Despite new regulations and an expert working group’s recommendations for improved hunting methods, a recent analysis showed no significant improvement in killing efficiency.

This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by One Green Planet on 13 June 2024. Image Credit :KasperFiil/Shutterstock.

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