Iceland urged to rethink ill-advised and damaging whaling policy

Thursday, February 19, 2009
(London - 18 February 2009) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging Iceland to rethink its latest controversial whaling policy which could see around 250 whales, including an endangered species, killed cruelly and unnecessarily and cause damage to Iceland’s international reputation.

Outgoing Fisheries and Agriculture Minister, Einar K Gudfinnsson, recently granted commercial whaling quotas of up to 150 endangered fin whales and 100 minke whales a year for the next five years. Iceland’s new Fisheries Minister, Steingrimur J Sigfusson, today announced these catch allowances would remain for one year instead of five, and despite only a limited domestic market for minke whales and no domestic market for fin whales.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel, unnecessary and unsustainable. Opinion polling and independent economic research in Iceland has also revealed little appetite for whale meat, while responsible whale watching, one of Iceland’s biggest tourist draws, offers a humane and profitable alternative.

When Iceland last hunted fin whales commercially in 2006 it led to a multi-nation demarche and condemnation from around the world.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “We are extremely saddened and disappointed that Iceland plans to press ahead with plans to kill so many whales, including an endangered species – fin whales – which traditionally Icelanders have not even eaten. This is a backward step for conservation.

“When Mr Gudfinnsson first announced these high quotas we dismissed them as a foolish move in the last gasp of a falling government. We hoped that the new fisheries minister would recognise that whaling is potentially damaging when Icelanders are struggling to rebuild their economy and protect their natural resources.”

IFAW has been working closely with Iceland’s whale watching operators in recent years and responsible whale watching has proved to be a far more sustainable industry than whaling, generating millions of pounds for coastal communities while avoiding the cruelty of whaling.

Mr Marsland added: “IFAW is against commercial whaling because of animal welfare and conservation concerns. Endangered species have never recovered from large-scaling commercial whaling in the past and whales are also a valuable resource worth far more alive than dead. We urge the Icelandic government to stop whaling now.”

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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
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Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
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IFAW Japan Representative
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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Robbie Marsland, Regional Director, United Kingdom
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