Minke whaling in Iceland has stopped

Minke whaling in Iceland has stopped
Friday, 27 July, 2018

Hunting of minke whales has ended in Iceland. Media sources reported today that cost and poor profits has made whaling no longer economically viable closing the local whaling industry.

“This is very good news for minke whales and Iceland,” said Sigursteinn Masson, Iceland Representative for IFAW. “Ending minke whaling will have a very positive impact on the far more economically viable commercial whale watching industry.”

Despite a self-allocated quota of 262 whales proposed to be hunted only six minke whales were caught during June, and not a single one in July, typically the peak hunting month. It is the lowest number of whales hunted in Iceland since the resumption of commercial whaling in 2003. Last summer a total of 17 minke whales were harpooned, compared to 46 in 2016.

According to Gunnar Jonsson, spokesperson for IP Fisheries, Iceland’s main minke whaling company, the enlargement of the whale sanctuary in Faxafloi Bay in front of Reykjavik has made operations for whalers very difficult. Historically up to 85 per cent of  minke whales hunted in Iceland have been harpooned in what is now the now protected area. Having to travel farther offshore in search of prey is time consuming and significantly more expensive.

Last December former Minister of Fisheries Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir enlarged the whale sanctuary in Flaxfloi Bay after years of campaigning by IFAW, Icewhale (The Association of Whale Watching Operators) and SAF (National Organisation of Tourism Operators).

Sigursteinn Masson continues “Despite this very good news we still have work to do in Iceland and other whaling countries. This year minke whale meat was imported into Iceland from Norway, a country which continues to hunt whales.  Although Icelandic whalers have stopped their operations they are considering  importing whale meat from Norway.

“IFAW will continue to campaign against whaling which is cruel, wasteful and unnecessary. IFAW’s successful campaign against minke whaling in Iceland was done with understanding and respect for Iceland and its people, and in building alliances within the country that focus on what is best for Iceland and for whales.”

Minke whale meat is sold in Iceland, though curious tourists eat most of it. A recent poll commissioned by IFAW showed Icelanders themselves have little appetite for whale meat as with only one per cent  saying they eat whale meat regularly and 82 per cent saying they never eat it.*

In conjunction with Iceland’s Icewhale coalition, IFAW works to educate tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat through its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign.

In 2009 the percentage of tourists who claimed to have tasted whale meat in Iceland was 40 per cent. Since the launch of Meet Us Don’t Eat Us in 2011 this figure has been drastically reduced, with IFAW surveys revealing only 11.4 per cent of tourists in Iceland had sampled whale meat in 2017.

Whale watching is a top tourist attraction in Iceland, generating around £20 million annually. More than 350,000 people go whale watching each year in Iceland, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.

More than half of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have signed up to be ‘Whale Friendly’ with a pledge not to serve whale meat, and less than 10 per cent of restaurants in this area have whale meat on their menus.

To support IFAW’s efforts to protect whales in Iceland or find out more about Meet Us Don’t Eat Us visit www.ifaw.is




For more information, images and footage or to arrange interviews please contact Sigursteinn Masson at IFAW on mobile +354 8638361 or email sigursteinn.robert.masson@gmail.com. Alternatively, please visit www.ifaw.org


Notes to Editors:

*This survey was carried out by Gallup between October 4 and 11, 2017, to survey Icelanders’ attitudes to whale hunting. It used a sample size of 1,448. The survey was carried out online across Iceland targeting only those aged 18 years and over randomly selected from Gallup’s Internet Panel. Total number of respondents was 859, with 589 not responding, giving a total response rate of 59.3 per cent. Full results are available on request.


About IFAW

Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit organisation that protects animals and the places they call home. With offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40, we rescue, rehabilitate and release animals into secure landscapes around the world. In collaboration with both governments and local communities, our experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time.

Post a comment

Press Contact

Sigursteinn Masson
Contact mobile:
+354 8638361
Contact email:


Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime