Iceland to Resume Hunt of Endangered Fin Whales

In a sickening defiance of international law, Iceland’s only fin whaling company Hvalur hf is set to resume its controversial hunt of endangered fin whales after a two-year break. Its 2018 whaling season will open on June 10th with the highest quotas in decades.

Fin whales are known as the "greyhounds of the sea" for their speed.  They are the world’s second largest animal (after the blue whale) and are listed under U.S. law as an endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that commercial whaling decimated the population of fin whales, and that the global population has declined by more than 70% over the last three generations.

Hvalur suspended its fin whale hunt in 2016 and 2017 due to difficulties exporting to Japan. Head of Hvalur Kristján Loftsson previously bemoaned the “red tape” when trying to sell Icelandic whale meat in Japan, but an apparent “loosening of Japanese regulations on Icelandic exports” reignited the hunt.

Since 2008, Hvalur has shipped more than 8,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan, where the products have been turned into dog treats and sushi. Now Hvalur said it plans to collaborate with researchers from the University of Iceland to develop nutritional supplements made of whale meat aimed at combatting iron deficiency and to make gelatin from the bones.

This is an outrageous attempt to jump-start a dying industry.

Consumption of whale meat in Japan has fallen sharply in recent years while polls indicate that few Icelanders support fin whale hunting.

Yet Iceland set record-high quotas for fin whales this year. The base quota is 209 whales (161 fin whales off western Iceland and 48 off eastern Iceland), plus 20 percent of its unused quota from last year (an additional 30 fin whales).

These quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and are in defiance of the IWC global moratorium on commercial whaling. Indeed, Iceland and Norway are the only countries in the world that continue to kill whales for profit in defiance of the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan also kills whales, exploiting a loophole for science—even though meat from its hunts ends up in the marketplace.  

During its last hunt in 2015, Hvalur killed 155 fin whales—the highest number of fin whale deaths since the global commercial whaling moratorium took effect in 1986. Iceland has faced increasing international pressure for its rogue whaling, including from the United States which in 2011 and again in 2014 imposed diplomatic sanctions.

A revival of Iceland's fin whaling industry is terrible news—bad for the whales, and bad for the millions of people who love them.

But we—consumers, tourists, and activists—have the power, our purchasing power, to end commercial whaling in Iceland. Money talks. Let’s use it to stop whaling.

Go to for more information and to take action against Icelandic whaling.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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