Iceland Whale Watching
I’m back in Iceland and this time headed to the West Fjords region for a workshop on whale watching with the local tourism board. If you look at a map of Iceland, West Fjords is the top hat shaped piece of land that juts out from the northwestern corner of the country. From what I understand the region is a fascinating place full of beautiful scenery and folk tales full of trolls, mermen, and goblins.
I’m looking forward to seeing the new one-of-a-kind generator recently installed at Elding’s whale watch company. Every boat, be it a small fishing boat or large container ship is equipped with some type of auxiliary generator to meet the vessels electrical needs. A generator combusts fuel, usually diesel, and produces electricity to power lights, navigation equipment and anything else that requires electrical power. Green boat design is in its infancy and if you look hard enough you might find a creative mariner that converted a diesel generator to run on bio-diesel. For the most part alternative fuels on motorized vessels are non-existent. In comes the Elding whale watch company with the first ever hydrogen generator installed on a passenger vessel! Hopefully I’ll find some time to get out whale watching with Gulli and Ranvig and check out this new green vessel in action.
There is plenty to be done in reducing a boats carbon footprint. (is carbon wake a better term?) Boaters can reduce emissions and improve operating efficiency by limiting the noise emanating from vibrating engine mounts and propeller cavitations all while helping protect whales from ocean noise pollution.
As I walked along the piers in search of the Elding whale watch I passed the Research Vessel Knorr from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute just down the road from IFAW’s headquarters office. This sight reminded me of something my college professors Jacque Carter and Steve Zeeman used to always say. Be a marine biologist and see the world. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to say save the whales and see the world. Odd seeing the familiar face of this boat from home but it’s great to see others drawn to Iceland’s oceanic wonder.
As I continued on my stroll I passed several whaling boats tied up dockside it was reassuring to see harpoons covered and hulls of the whaling ships rusting at the dock. I’d never wish ill against any fellow mariner but seeing first hand that whaling is literally rusting away boosted my hopes that Iceland’s whaling days will soon fade for good.
Iceland is a fascinating place where the subject of whaling appears much like the ebb and flow of a changing tide. It’s just a matter of time until whale hunting ebbs and never returns. Whaling has slowly faded as market demand vanished and attention focused on Iceland’s image as a prime tourism destination. Icelandic whaling defies the very reputation the nation is building in the ecotourism industry. Unlike Japan whaling in Iceland isn’t government subsidized so there is little incentive for it to continue. A small but influential pro-whaling minority who together with a supportive fisheries minister, refuse to let the tide ebb on Iceland’s whaling industry. That small pro whaling group is like a tidepool left behind by a receding sea. The tide has indeed turned in favor of responsible utilization of Iceland’s natural wonders rather than exploitation of marine resources. Anyone on the street in Iceland will tell you, just as anyone in Gloucester, Massachusetts or any other fishing town would, that fishing is just not a smart career choice. Iceland’s fisheries reflect the demise of fisheries around the world caused by global overfishing and habitat degradation. Choosing a career based on exploitation of marine resources is like choosing to produce vinyl records in 1985, there simply isn’t a future in it. Shifting careers from exploitation of marine resources to a livelihood based on responsible, sustainable, and non-consumptive utilization of our oceans will lead to prosperity for all whose livelihoods depend on our seas.
The ‘green’ tide is flooding here in Iceland, and the result is a brighter future for the people of Iceland and whales around the world.