No Commercial Whaling in Iceland Again This Year!

The cancellation of fin and minke whale hunts sweetens the celebration of International Biological Diversity Day

Fin Whale - Wikimedia Commons

As we quarantine, we also celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity. This global event, held every year on May 22nd, was established by the United Nations to promote and raise global awareness of issues related to the planet’s biodiversity. This year’s message, “Our solutions are in nature,”  emphasizes “hope, solidarity, and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.”

Iceland offered a big dose of much needed hope recently, when, for the second year in a row, Icelandic whalers suspended the commercial hunts of fin and minke whales.

Even better, minke whalers may be hanging up their harpoons for good. Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, managing director of IP útgerð, an Icelandic minke whaling company, told the Agence France-Presse it was “no longer financially viable to hunt for whales in Icelandic waters.”

"I'm never going to hunt whales again, I'm stopping for good," Bergmann Jonsson said.

Hvalur hf—the only company in Iceland that hunts fin whales—also announced last month to Icelandic media that it would suspend whaling operations for the year, citing coronavirus social distancing requirements and declining export opportunities to Japan. After initially blaming COVID-19, Hvalur CEO Kristján Loftsson also acknowledged that Japanese subsidies to local whalers to keep its newly revived commercial whaling program afloat make it impossible for his company to compete.

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.  Loftsson suspended fin whale hunting again in 2016 due to “red tape” exporting to Japan only to resume two years later.  

For now, let’s celebrate that the business of killing whales is now a dying industry in Iceland.

This is a dramatic shift for Iceland. 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.

On International Biodiversity Day, this will help “‘bend the curve’ on biodiversity loss for the benefit of humans and all life on Earth.”

As we all miss major life events due to social distancing, let’s celebrate something we won’t miss: Iceland’s 2020 whaling season. A definitive win for the whales!

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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