Iceland to hunt whales despite global moratorium and international outcry

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Reykjavik, Iceland
The government of Iceland has announced today that it will commercially hunt whales for the first time in more than two decades, contravening a moratorium established in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The announcement has drawn sharp criticism from the global community including the UK government, which today called on Iceland to reconsider its decision, and experts with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org).

The announcement was made by Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries, which said permits had been granted for the commercial hunting of 30 minke whales and nine endangered fin whales. While Iceland has not officially hunted whales commercial over the last two decades, it has hunted whales for what it calls “scientific” purposes that are allowable through an IWC loophole – though the meat from the whales is sold commercially within Iceland – generating outcry from both the global conservation and scientific communities.

In criticizing Iceland’s decision to resume the commercial hunting of whales, the U.K. government noted today in an official statement that:

“Few Icelanders eat whale meat regularly; there is limited, if any, world market for the meat; and there is little scientific support for the theory that whales have a significant impact on the depletion of fish stocks. Furthermore, a growing number of jobs in Iceland depend on the developing whale-watching industry. In the past year, thousands of visitors from overseas (over 70.000 were British) have experienced the joy and excitement of sailing off the coast of Iceland to see whales swimming in their natural habitat.”

IFAW’s Director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection, Dr. Joth Singh, agreed, saying, “Commercial whaling is an out-dated and unnecessary industry that should have ended a century ago with the use of whale oil lamps. The government of Iceland should be supporting its nation’s thriving and growing whale watching industry rather than sinking money and its political reputation into promoting the hunting of whales.”

Recent Gallup polling commissioned by IFAW confirmed how unnecessary commercial whaling is to Iceland, revealing that only 1.1% of Icelanders eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4% of 16 to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat.

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