Iceland has announced that it would stop whaling in 2024 due to diminishing demand and ongoing controversy.
“There are few arguments to approve whale hunting beyond 2024,” when present quotas expire, said Svands Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, in an op-ed published in Friday’s Morgunblai newspaper.
The minister stated that it was “undisputed” that whale hunting has not been economically significant to Iceland in recent years, with no large whales caught in the last three years, with the exception of one minke whale in 2021.
“Japan has traditionally been the main customer of [Icelandic] whale meat, but its consumption is dropping year after year. Why should Iceland accept the risk of continuing to fish in areas where it has not provided economic benefits in order to offer a product that is in short supply?” she asked.
After a 30-year ban, Japan resumed commercial whaling in its waters in 2019.
Commercial whaling was banned in a 1986 International Whaling Commission embargo, but Japan withdrew from the IWC in December 2018, marking their return to whaling by harpooning two minke whales.
Svandís also pointed out whale hunting has been controversial and recalled that US retail chain Whole Foods had stopped marketing Icelandic products for a while as a result.
According to the IWC, whose purpose is “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry,” Iceland continued a small “scientific whaling program” after the 1986 embargo.
Iceland left the IWC in 1992 but rejoined in 2002, this time taking out a “reservation” against the embargo.
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in October 2006 in a move “furiously disputed by many countries angry at what they regarded as Iceland’s attempt to bypass international regulations,” according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a non-profit organization.
More than 1,700 minke, fin and sei whales have been killed in Iceland since the 1986 embargo, according to data from the WDC. The same report found that 852 fin whales were slaughtered in Iceland from 2006 to 2018 — adding that there was no whaling in the 2019, 2020 or 2021 seasons.
Fin whales are classed as a vulnerable species on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, while sei whales are categorized as an endangered. The status of minke whales is unknown, according to the Red List.
This article by Arnaud Siad and Sana Noor Haq was first published by CNN on 5 February 2022. Lead Image: Workers hose down a large fin whale in Hvalfjordur, Iceland in 2006. The country broke a global ban on commercial whaling, killing the fin whale for the first time since the 1980s.
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