Iceland Will Not Kill Whales This Year!

Cancelling hunts of fin and minke whales is great news for whales and whale lovers alike

Minke and endangered fin whales can breathe a huge sigh of relief: Icelandic whalers have suspended commercial hunts this year.

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. Fin whales are hunted in Iceland and exported to Japan.

Fin Whale - Wikimedia Commons

Demand by tourists for “traditional” minke whale meat in Icelandic restaurants has partially driven the hunt for minke whales in the past. In 2017, restaurants in Iceland bought 60% of minke whale meat. A large part of that is consumed by tourists visiting Iceland—the largest proportion of whom are from the United States and United Kingdom.

Hopefully this trend is changing since whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland and Icelandic support for whaling and consumption of whale meat is at an all-time low.

Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, CEO of IP útgerð, an Icelandic minke whaling company, said his company would “skip” whaling this season and instead concentrate on sea cucumbers until September.

“It does not suit us as things stand at the moment and so the decision was made to skip it [this year],” Gunnar said to Icelandic media.

Hvalur hf—the only company in Iceland that hunts fin whales—announced earlier this month that it would suspend whaling operations for the year, saying their whaling license arrived too late for them to finish repairing their boats in time.

“There will be no whaling season for us,” said the captain of whaling ship Hvalur 9 Ólafur Ólafsson. “So [the whales] will get to swim in peace around the country. We’ll take it easy in the meanwhile.”

Notably, Hvalur has suspended fin whaling in the past. It cancelled the hunt after the 2011 tsunami in Japan only to resume two years later. In 2016, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur hf, suspended fin whale hunting due to “red tape” exporting to Japan only to resume last year.  

The suspension of commercial whaling in Iceland is reason to cheer.

The good news stands in stark contrast to news from Japan—which is set to resume commercial whaling next week on July 1st.

Until then, let’s celebrate a win for the whales!

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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