Icelanders believe whaling damages tourism

Friday, November 24, 2006
Reykjavik, Iceland
48% of Icelanders believe commercial whaling will have a negative impact on the country’s tourism industry, according to a recent poll.
The new Gallup poll was commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) in light of Iceland’s resumption of commercial whaling.
 
Despite little market for meat from Iceland’s so-called “scientific” whaling programme, begun in 2003, whalers have recently harpooned seven endangered fin whales and one minke whale in a bid to sell the meat commercially.
 
Tourism industry representatives, both outside and within Iceland, have voiced serious concern about the effect of Iceland’s whaling policy on its tourism, with whale watching companies reporting cancellations in response to whaling.
 
These concerns are reflected in the polling results, with 48% saying they believed whaling would have either a rather negative or very negative impact on Iceland’s tourism industry. 39.8% said they felt the effect would be neither positive nor negative, while only 12.2% said they thought it would have a positive impact.
 
Of those expressing an opinion one way or the other, 79.7% thought the decision to resume commercial whaling would have a negative impact on Iceland’s tourism industry.
 
In addition, 87.8% of Icelanders polled said they valued Iceland’s reputation abroad.
 
Images of harpooned whales being dragged ashore and cut up provoked a barrage of international outcry, as well as a political demarche signed by 25 countries, including the UK, along with the EU Commission.
 
Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK, said: “IFAW is urging the Icelandic government to end its whaling policy which is opposed by so many, including many concerned Icelanders. We urge them to protect whales, Iceland’s international reputation and its lucrative tourism and whale watching industry from further damage.”
 
As Icelanders do not traditionally eat fin whale meat, the only other potential market was Japan. However, Japan has declared that it does not want the meat, and it is now in storage.
 
Permits were issued for nine fin whales to be killed commercially, along with 30 minke whales. After taking the seventh fin whale, Iceland’s whalers stated that they would not hunt any more whales this year, citing bad weather as the reason.

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