The firm also has plans to collaborate with researchers from the University of Iceland to develop medicinal products made of whale blubber and bones, aimed at combating iron deficiency.
Sigursteinn Masson, at the Icelandic branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), said: “I’m very disappointed. This decision is not based on real market needs and is not in line with public opinion polls on whaling, which doesn’t belong in modern times.”
Iceland and Norway are the only countries in the world to authorise whaling in defiance of the 1986 International Whaling Commission’s moratorium.
Iceland resumed whaling in 2006 on economic grounds and has defied threats of US sanctions to continue to do so. The US did not invite Iceland, one of the largest fishing nations in the north Atlantic, to the Our Ocean conference in 2014.
Japan hunts whales, but claims it does so for scientific research purposes, although a large share of the whale meat ends up being consumed.
Iceland’s whaling season opens on 10 June and the authorities have granted its whalers a quota of 161 fin whales in 2018, compared to 150 in 2017. In addition, Hvalur’s two ships are entitled to hunt 20% of its unused quota from last year, which means it will be allowed to hunt an 30 additional whales.
During its last hunt in 2015, Hvalur killed a record 155 fin whales, which are the planet’s second largest mammal after the blue whale.
The latest records from the Icelandic institute suggest there are about 40,000 in the north Atlantic ocean, up from 25,000 in 2006.
Iceland has only one other whaling company, IP-Utgerd Ltd, which specialises in hunting minke whales. The meat from the whales is served in Icelandic restaurants, but largely to cater to intrigued tourists.
A poll commissioned in October 2017 by the Ifaw suggested that 35.4% of Icelanders supported the fin whale hunt, compared to 42% in 2016.
The two-year suspension of hunting followed the claims from the Japanese authorities that the Icelandic company had not met Japanese health standards.
The company’s attempts to ship 1,700 tonnes of whale meat to Japan via Angola in 2015 had also been hampered by the reluctance of some foreign ports to allow transit of the meat.
Kristjàn Loftsson told the Associated Press that the company was working with Japanese officials on developing methods to fulfil Japanese standards for fresh meat imports.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 18 Apr 2018.
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