New app promotes whale friendly tourism in Iceland

New app promotes whale friendly tourism in Iceland
Thursday, 28 May, 2015
Reykjavik, Iceland

A new app has been created to promote whale friendly tourism in Iceland.

The free ‘Whappy’ app, launched today in Reykjavik by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), contains information about whale friendly restaurants, which have pledged not to serve whale meat, as well as whale watching operators, whale friendly souvenirs and an identification guide for whales and dolphins that can be seen in Icelandic waters.

IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale. Instead, IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a profitable and sustainable alternative that is better for whales and coastal communities.

Sigursteinn Masson, IFAW’s Icelandic representative, said: “The new app is another way of informing tourists visiting our beautiful country about the wonder of whale watching, but it also helps them make whale friendly decisions and ensure their trip does not leave a bad taste in their mouth.

“Many tourists are not fully aware of the contradiction of going whale watching then later eating whale meat. Icelanders have very little appetite for whale meat these days, so if tourists sample whale meat in our restaurants they are contributing directly to the number of whales being killed.”

In collaboration with Icelandic whale watching operators’ coalition IceWhale, IFAW operates a summer ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland with volunteers informing and educating tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat consumption. The project was launched in 2010 after it became apparent that with only a tiny percentage of Icelanders claiming to regularly eat whale meat (3% according to most recent Gallup polling*), tourists had become a significant part of the domestic market for minke whale meat.

At the time, whale meat could be found on the menu of all but a handful of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik. The percentage of tourists who say they have tasted whale meat has more than halved over the last five years from 40% in 2009 to 18% in 2014. In addition, the ‘whale friendly restaurants’ scheme has resulted in less than 50% of restaurants now offering whale meat on the menu. The rest have pledged not to serve whale meat and display a whale friendly sticker in their windows.

Masson added: “We hope tourists and tour operators will use our Whappy app and help enhance tourists’ experience. Iceland is one of the best destinations in Europe for whale watching with the opportunity to see a huge variety of species of whale and dolphin.”

Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 220,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.

The 2015 minke whaling season has already begun with unconfirmed reports that the first two minke whales have been killed, although the hunt is being delayed because of a strike by veterinarians who are needed to inspect the catch. Fin whaling, which is carried out primarily for export to Japan, is expected to start around June 15 this year.

Iceland’s self-allocated kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 229 minke whales this summer. A quota of 239 was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed. This year’s catch limit for fin whaling is 154. Last year Iceland’s whalers took 137 endangered fin whales.

For more information on Whappy and download links visit www.ifaw.org/whappy

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on +44 (0)20 7587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email csterling@ifaw.org

Alternatively contact Sigursteinn Masson in Iceland on 00354 8638361 or email sigursteinnmasson@gmail.com

Notes to Editors:

* A sample size of 1,450 people aged 18 and over from across Iceland was surveyed via the Internet on attitudes towards whale hunting. The survey was carried out by Capacent Gallup during October 2013.

Reykjavik City Council recently passed a cross-party resolution calling on the minister of fisheries to create an enlarged sanctuary for whales in Faxafloi Bay. IFAW supports this resolution and urges the Icelandic government to bring about a permanent end to the country’s commercial whaling.

Iceland’s lone whaling crusader, Kristjan Loftsson, is attempting to ship an estimated 1,700 tonnes of fin whale meat out of the country. Despite limited market for the meat and opposition at home and abroad to the bloody trade in the endangered whale species, the shipment, believed to be the entire stock from last summer’s fin whaling season, has been loaded onto a cargo vessel believed to be bound for Japan.

According to Icelandic media reports, the vessel Winter Bay, which is registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis, has been in Hafnarfjordur harbour for several weeks but its departure is said to be delayed due to serious technical problems.

Last year, the freighter Alma made the same voyage to Japan carrying 2,000 tonnes of whale meat, sailing south of the Cape of Good Hope, rather than through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, which is a much shorter route. This was to avoid docking anywhere along the way following earlier shipments of whale meat being returned after international ports rejected their cargos.

In September 2014, the 28 member states of the European Union led a coalition including the US, Australia, Brazil, Israel and New Zealand in a political demarche stating their “strong opposition to Iceland’s continuing and increased harvest of whales…and to its ongoing international trade in whale products.”

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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Clare Sterling (IFAW,UK)
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