Minke whaling season due to begin in Iceland

Minke whaling season due to begin in Iceland
Thursday, 13 April, 2017
London

The minke whaling season is expected to start imminently in Iceland, with whales being cruelly harpooned so their meat can be sold in restaurants and supermarkets.

Iceland’s self-allocated kill quota for each year is 224 minke whales, with a fraction of this quota usually taken. In recent years the number of minkes killed annually has been between 24 and 30, although last year whalers harpooned 46 minke whales.

Faxaflói Bay, just outside Reykjavik, is a rich area for whales and whale watching, but almost all of Iceland’s minke whaling also takes place here, meaning that the most ‘curious’ minke whales, regularly seen by whale watchers, are likely being picked off by the whalers.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Icelandic government to create a whale sanctuary which would protect whales and the whale watching industry in Faxaflói Bay as pressure grows for an end to whaling. Last summer an IFAW petition urging tourists and Icelanders not to eat whale meat reached its target of more than 100,000 signatures.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “We have been encouraged by the huge number of tourists and Icelanders who have pledged not to eat whale meat and added their voices to the call for an end to whaling. Supporting responsible whale watching over whale killing is good for coastal communities and Iceland’s tourism industry, as well as being better for whales.

“It is time for the cruel and outdated practice of whaling to end. We urge the Icelandic government to declare Faxaflói Bay a whale sanctuary so that whales can be protected and enjoyed in their natural environment.”

IFAW works closely with Icelandic whale watching operators and tourism organisations to promote responsible whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.

Whale watching is one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 300,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead. This year, the number of tourists going whale watching is expected to exceed 330,000, which is more than the population of Iceland.

Gallup polling commissioned by IFAW in 2016 found only around 1.5% of Icelanders claim to regularly eat whale meat, with 81% saying they had never eaten it.

For the second year running, there will be no fin whaling in Iceland this summer, after the country’s lone fin whaling crusader Kristjan Loftsson announced via Icelandic media that once again he would not be hunting fin whales in 2017, due to economic issues. Loftsson’s company, Hvalur hf, killed 155 endangered fin whales in 2015, chiefly for the Japanese market.

IFAW, in conjunction with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, works to educate tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat through its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign. The percentage of tourists who say they have tasted whale meat in Iceland has more than halved in recent years from 40% when ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ was launched in 2011.

In addition, more than half of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have signed up to be ‘Whale Friendly’ with a pledge not to serve whale meat. IFAW believes that these efforts to reduce tourist demand for whale meat and availability of whale meat in restaurants is helping to reduce the number of minkes whales being killed.

IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale.

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org

Alternatively visit www.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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Press Contact

Clare Sterling (IFAW UK)
Contact mobile:
+44 (0)7917 507717
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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