Iceland’s fin whaling season begins

Iceland’s fin whaling season begins
Monday, 29 June, 2015
London, UK

Iceland’s fin whaling season has begun with the first whaling boats heading out to sea overnight to train their harpoons on the second largest species of whale.

Iceland’s lone whaling crusader, Kristjan Loftsson, usually begins fin whaling on or around the country’s National Day on June 17 but has been delayed this year, apparently due to a strike by veterinary inspectors.

This year’s catch limit for fin whaling is 154. Last year Iceland’s whalers took 137 fin whales.

Mr Loftsson is also currently attempting to ship an estimated 1,700 tonnes of fin whale meat to Japan. Despite limited market for the meat and opposition at home and abroad to the bloody trade in the endangered whale species, the shipment, believed to be the entire stock from last summer’s fin whaling season, was loaded onto a cargo vessel bound for Japan and is currently moored in Tromso, Norway.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “It is very disappointing to see Mr Loftsson pressing ahead with the slaughter of more endangered fin whales. Icelanders don’t even eat fin whale meat yet these whales continue to be killed because of the actions of one businessman intent on resuscitating the whale meat trade.

“At the same time as more of these magnificent animals are being harpooned, last year’s unused supply of fin whale meat is struggling on its long and circuitous route to Japan. This enterprise will prove extremely costly not just to Mr Loftsson but also to Iceland’s international reputation.”

Prior to its original departure, the vessel Winter Bay, which is registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis, had been stuck in Hafnarfjordur harbour in Iceland for several weeks due to serious technical problems.

The 2015 minke whaling season has already begun but has also faced delays and difficulties because of the veterinary inspectors’ strike; according to the Minke Whalers’ Association and the Fisheries Directorate websites, 14 minke whales have so far been killed. Iceland’s self-allocated kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 229 minke whales this summer. A quota of 239 was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed.

Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 200,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale.

In partnership with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as an alternative to the cruelty of whaling, encourages tourists to avoid eating whale meat and works with Icelandic restaurants, promoting those that choose not to serve whale meat through a ‘whale friendly’ restaurants campaign.

Last year, the freighter Alma made the voyage from Iceland to Japan carrying 2,000 tonnes of whale meat, sailing south of the Cape of Good Hope, rather than through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, which is a much shorter route. This was to avoid docking anywhere along the way following earlier shipments of whale meat being returned after international ports rejected their cargos.

Recent Gallup polling found only around 3% of Icelanders claim to regularly eat whale meat. The percentage of tourists who say they have tasted whale meat has more than halved over the last five years from 40% in 2009 to 18% in 2014.

Reykjavik City Council has passed a cross-party resolution calling on the minister of fisheries to create an enlarged sanctuary for whales in Faxafloi Bay. IFAW supports this resolution and urges the Icelandic government to bring about a permanent end to the country’s commercial whaling.

Last September, the 28 member states of the European Union led a coalition including the US, Australia, Brazil, Israel and New Zealand in a political demarche stating their “strong opposition to Iceland’s continuing and increased harvest of whales…and to its ongoing international trade in whale products.”

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on 020 7587 6708, mobile 07917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Clare Sterling (IFAW UK)
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Experts

Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation