Minke whaling season due to begin in Iceland

Minke whaling season due to begin in Iceland
Tuesday, 26 April, 2016
London

Minke whaling season is expected to start imminently in Iceland with whaling boats already on the move.

So far, Iceland’s self-allocated kill quota for minkes this season has not been announced. Last year’s quota allowed whalers to harpoon up to 239 minke whales, but in reality 29 were taken. The same quota was issued for the previous year with only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, killed.

Faxafloi 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, with 80% of it at the very border of the whale watching area, meaning that the most ‘curious’ minke whales, regularly seen by whale watchers, are being picked off.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Icelandic government to create an enlarged sanctuary for whales in Faxafloi Bay. Reykjavik City Council has previously passed a cross-party resolution calling on the minister of fisheries to act on this.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “It’s encouraging to see growing numbers of Icelandic leaders supporting whale watching over whale killing as a solution which is better for whales and the Icelandic economy. With domestic demand for whale meat declining while the whale watching industry booms, it is time for the cruel and outdated practice of killing whales for products that nobody needs to end.”

This year there will be no fin whaling in Iceland, after the country’s lone fin whaling crusader Kristjan Loftsson announced to national media in February that he would not be hunting fin whales in 2016, blaming difficulties in getting the whale meat onto the Japanese market. Last year Loftsson’s company, Hvalur hf, killed 155 fin whales – the second largest whale and an endangered species.

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 now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 200,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.

Gallup polling commissioned by IFAW found only around 3% of Icelanders claim to regularly eat whale meat, with more than 82% saying they had never eaten it.

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 over five years from 40% in 2009 to 18% in 2014, and this downward trend is expected to continue.

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 +44 (0)20 7587 6708, 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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