Icelandic whaling, Mr Loftsson’s costly hobby
As the longest day passes in Iceland and despite the very sad fact that it has taken the deaths of two more endangered fin whales to reveal it, a new day may be about to dawn for whales in that beautiful country.
As threatened, Kristjan Loftsson recently sent out his whaling vessels and a few days ago one of them returned with the carcass of a 21-metre fin whale lashed to it.
The fin whale is the second largest whale only after the blue whale – so it is too big to be carried onboard Mr Loftsson’s 1940s steam driven whaling boats.
Mr Loftsson is Iceland’s lone, and some say maverick, fin whaler. This is the first time his boats have been out in three years. In the past he’s enjoyed making a song and dance about the landing of the first whale.
Usually, the press and TV cameras gather around to watch Mr Loftsson and some of his friends as they proudly cut the whale to pieces in the open air. Mr Loftsson seems to think that this moment needs to be celebrated.
If so, he must have been a bit surprised this year.
This is because while Mr Loftsson was doing his gory job, up on the hill overlooking the whaling station were a group of Icelanders holding banners that reviled his so-called trade.
One of the banners read ‘Whales are not dog food’. This was because it had recently come to light in the Icelandic media that some of the meat from the whales that Mr Loftsson’s company kills ends up as food for Japanese dogs.
So, the next day, instead of the Icelandic papers being full of a proud Mr Loftsson with the bloody remains of a flensed whale, the papers were full of photos of the demonstrators and their banners. The editorial message behind the photos was negative towards this anachronistic activity.
The papers also reported that the Icelandic Tourism Association (SAF) was deeply critical of Mr Loftsson’s whaling. SAF seems to agree with the Icelandic whale watchers’ association (Icewhale) that killing whales is not only bad for the whale watchers but for the tourism industry as a whole.
More and more, Mr Loftsson’s activities are being seen in Iceland as increasingly harmful to Iceland and its economic interests and furthermore they are cruel and unnecessary.
It seems like Mr Loftsson is on his way to being seen as an old fashioned diehard who is determined to use his wealth to kill whales that are increasingly hard to sell.
Even his fellow shareholders in his company are getting tired of his whaling and are beginning to publicly call for this loss-making enterprise to stop.
Here at the International Fund for Animal Welfare we’ve never understood why Mr Loftsson wants to kill whales – it’s never looked commercially sound; as the EU accession talks are now grinding to a halt, it’s not politically convenient.
Perhaps it’s just the wistful hobby of a wealthy man hankering after old times.
If so, it’s a hobby that Icelanders are beginning to recognise as costing them dear.