Iceland suspends Fin whaling due to lack of sales
Minke whaling to continue
Fin whales harpooned off Iceland. Credit IFAW.
May 2011. WDCS (the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) has learned that Iceland's fin whale hunt is to be postponed indefinitely and a number of workers at the Hvalur whaling company will lose their jobs in a move which reflects the slow demise of the industry in Iceland.
According to reports emerging from Iceland, Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of the Hvalur made the announcement to a group of about 30 staff yesterday following his return from a recent visit to Japan.
Gunnlaugur Fjólar Gunnlaugsson, Hvalur's foreman, told Icelandic news media in an interview that a decision on whether to go ahead with the hunt in August or September would be made later this summer.
Japanese market has collapsed
Loftsson indicated that two of the whale processing companies in Japan with which he works had sustained major damage following the recent earthquake there. In addition, the market has also collapsed and therefore, according to the company, it would not be feasible to start hunting for the foreseeable future. The fin whaling season opened on June 26th in 2010.
Iceland's whale meat sales to Japan had been facing a tough time since exports began in 2008, and had fallen short of the profits predicted. Quality issues with the Icelandic whale meat, and a waning interest in the product among Japanese consumers meant that prices for Icelandic fin whale meat were set at low rates, described as a "loss leader" by the industry in its effort to try and build a market in Japan. In the past two years, Hvalur killed 273 endangered fin whales, earning the censure of both governments and environmental groups.
Revenue from whale and dolphin tourism could easily replace whaling
Kate O'Connell, WDCS anti-whaling campaigner said, "It is too soon to claim victory, and Iceland's whales still face the threat of harpoons. In 2007, Iceland declared that it was ending commercial whaling, only to come back with a vengeance in 2009, targeting more whales and increasing exports. We must remain vigilant, and not let the whalers lull the world into a false sense that all is well."
WDCS calls on the public to become even more engaged and to send the clear signal to Iceland's whaling and fishing communities that this so-called temporary halt isn't enough. All whaling and trade in whale products must be officially banned.
Don't buy your fish from whalers
WDCS began a wide-ranging consumer campaign against Iceland in 2010, advising buyers, "Don't buy your fish from whalers". A significant number of retailers and supermarkets have joined the campaign, which has spread from the UK to the US and Europe.
Among the supporters is lead UK seafood supplier Findus, which had agreed to mark the Hvalur-linked Icelandic seafood company HB Grandi as unacceptable across its supply chain. Mike Mitchell, current CSR Director, at Youngs Seafood Ltd UK. (part of Findus Group) had told WDCS that "We understand that many people in the UK have serious concerns over the practice of commercial whaling. We make every effort to ensure that our commercial activities do not directly support businesses which carry out or profit from commercial whaling activities." WDCS has also been leading efforts in the US to urge the Obama Administration to impose sanctions on Iceland for its whaling and trade in whale products in defiance of IWC and CITES bans.
Minke whaling to continue
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Minke whaling in Iceland continues. Last year 60 Minke whales were killed. IFAW opposes whaling because it is inherently cruel - there is no humane way to kill a whale.
While about 5% of Icelanders eat Minke whale meat, there is no market for fin whale meat in Iceland. The US has informed Iceland that it is considering the use of sanctions against Icelandic fin whaling and both Germany and the Netherlands have passed resolutions in their parliaments that Iceland should not be allowed to join the EU and carry on any whaling. The UK Government is opposed to all commercial whaling.
Whale watching a viable industry
"IFAW has been carefully campaigning in Iceland for the past eight years. We have sought to advocate responsible whale watching and to question the economics and politics behind Icelandic whaling. We are pleased to see this positive move and shall await developments with much interest and some optimism," said Mr Marsland.
Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, Chair of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association (Icewhale), responded to this news by saying: "We welcome this move and look forward to a time when whale watching is the only whale business in Iceland."