Whalers bloody Iceland’s waters and international reputation with first whale kill

Sunday, October 22, 2006
Reykjavik, Iceland
The crew of an Icelandic whaling ship killed an endangered fin whale yesterday – the first of nine fin whales and 30 minke whales to be hunted under government issued permits issued last week. International outcry continues to build against the government of Iceland’s decision to resume commercial whaling after a 20-year hiatus – with the U.K., U.S., France, Australia, New Zealand and the E.U. issuing public statements. Whale experts with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) have also criticized the government for supporting whaling.
The whaling ship, owned by prominent Icelandic businessman Kristjan Loftsson, arrived this morning at Hvalfjordur (Whale Fjord), a small inlet with a dock used by whalers in Iceland’s whaling days. The country’s sole whale meat processing factory, built during World War II, is currently inoperable. With no where to process the whale, it was dragged onto the shore to be flensed in the open at Hvalfjordur.
 
Fin whales are endangered under IUCN guidelines and second only to the blue whale in terms of size -- growing to average lengths of 18-22m and weights of 30-80 tons. They were hunted in significant numbers by whalers in the past, and their population figures are currently unknown.
 
Fin whales are not historically consumed by Icelanders, increasing speculation that Iceland intends to trade the meat internationally with Japan. This would contravene current regulations of the U.N Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which bans the international trade of all great whale species.
 
“By supporting the commercial hunting of this endangered fin whale, the Icelandic government has bloodied not only its pristine waters, but its international reputation,” said IFAW Director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection, Dr. Joth Singh. “The world is not standing by and watching, it is now acting. We applaud the swift action of the world’s nations in condemning this cruel and unnecessary hunt.
 
“The Icelandic government should not put its country’s reputation as an eco-tourism destination at risk for the profit of a single businessman. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Iceland each year to go whale watching. The government should realize that more Icelanders can benefit from live whales than can from dead ones,” added Dr. Singh.

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