Iceland's fin whaling begins again...

The Icelandic Minister of Fisheries was on the National Radio of Iceland this morning rebuking the United States’ decision not to invite Iceland to the international conference ‘Our Ocean’, hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The reason for this action by the US State Department is, according to them, Iceland’s commercial whaling; however the reality is that a single individual, Mr. Kristjan Loftsson, is responsible for the commercial whaling of fin whales.

The Minister stated that it was strange to exclude one of the biggest fishing nations in the northern hemisphere and remarked that fin whaling is perfectly sustainable...

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Sustainable?

One asks how often can this one word be misused in this context?

Even if fin whales were not listed as endangered, which they are, the bloody hunting would still not be sustainable. For whaling to be so, this practice would have to be economically sustainable which it is not and it would also have to be in harmony with other interests, such as tourism and whale watching, which it is clearly not.

For more than 11 years the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has worked within Iceland in close cooperation with the whale watching and the tourism industries, which have for years seen whaling as a threat to their livelihoods and campaigned against it along with IFAW. 

The whaling vessels Hvalur 8 and 9 sailed out of harbour in Iceland, six hours apartwith a 6 hour difference, last night to commence the 2014 fin whaling season. These steamboats were built in Norway just after WWII and are set to go whaling about 100 miles west of the coast of Iceland. The combined quota for both vessels this summer is 154 endangered fin whales.

While Kristján Loftsson, the owner of the whaling company Hvalur inc, has his crew searching for fin whales, the second largest animals on the planet, the whale watching operators in Reykjavík have another type of whaling to deal with practically on their doorsteps in Faxaflói bay.

Minke whaling is taking place there, at the very border of the whale watching area.

So far, as I write this, the whalers have killed 11 whales in the bay this summer, the last one being a 6.5-metre long male on June 12.

June 17 is Iceland’s Independence Day. Last year the first fin whale of the season was dragged into the whaling station on this day.

It is possible the same event will happen this year, depending on how quick they are to find a fin whale to kill and how long the killing will take.

Will the massive explosive harpoon hit the heart or the head?

If neither, the death struggle will likely be long and very painful for the animal.

IFAW and Icewhale (The Icelandic Whale Watching Association) are encouraging Icelanders to go to the whaling station and see what is going on with their own eyes, thus a new and very different Independence Day that would indeed be an important lesson to learn.

So what can be done to stop the whaling?

IFAW is approaching the issue from several directions and considerable progress has been made so far.

The lonely whaler, Kristján Loftsson, despite being a very rich businessman, is increasingly isolated in Iceland both business-wise and politically.

Only a few years back it was difficult to find a single politician who questioned the practice of whaling; today they are many. Four parties in Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, have come together on a resolution calling for general assessment of Iceland’s interests regarding whales. New animal welfare laws cast a doubt on the legality of the whaling and opinion polls are moving in the right direction.

Our campaign Meet Us Don´t Eat Us, now in its fourth year, has brought together more than 50 ‘whale friendly’ restaurants, which do not sell whale meat, and reduced whale meat consumption by tourists by 50%.

IFAW knows, from extensive experience, that a sustainable and positive solution can only be achieved by working closely with locals for changes which will benefit everybody in the end.

That is exactly what we are doing in Iceland.

--SM

Your support is essential for IFAW to continue its efforts to end commercial whaling, visit our campaign page for more information.

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