No fin whales to be killed in Iceland this summer

No fin whales to be killed in Iceland this summer
Thursday, 25 February, 2016

No fin whales will be slaughtered in Iceland this summer, according to Icelandic media reports this morning.

The country’s lone whaling crusader, Kristjan Loftsson, is quoted in Iceland’s daily newspaper Morgunbladid which claims he will not be hunting fin whales this season due to problems getting the whale meat onto the Japanese market.

Last year Mr Loftsson’s whaling company, Hvalur hf, killed 155 fin whales – the second largest whale and an endangered species.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been working in Iceland for more than 25 years to protect whales and welcomed today’s announcement.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “This cannot have been an easy decision for Mr Loftsson but it is the right one for Iceland’s interests as well as his own. For many years, IFAW has been working in Iceland, shoulder to shoulder with Icelandic leaders promoting responsible whale watching and creative development of the eco-tourism industry.

“IFAW and our Icelandic partners, staff and volunteers are heartened by today’s announcement. We commend Mr Loftsson on his decision which is a very positive development for Iceland, for whales and for the millions of people around the world who care deeply about both.”

In recent years Mr Loftsson has faced increased difficulty in his whaling activities, due to a combination of logistical problems, a falling market for whale meat and increased international opposition to the cruelty of whaling.

Last year’s fin whaling season, which usually begins on or around the country’s National Day on June 17, was delayed due to a strike by veterinary inspectors and attempts to ship 1,700 tonnes of stockpiled fin whale meat on a circuitous route to Japan were hampered by the growing reluctance of foreign ports to allow the transit of the meat. The previous year saw shipments returned to Iceland after being rejected by several ports.

Icelanders traditionally do not eat fin whale meat so this species is hunted specifically with a view to selling it to Japan.

In today’s media reports, Loftsson is quoted as saying that another hindrance to his fin whaling activities was Japan’s insistence on repeated chemical analysis tests on the meat. He claims that unless Japan adopts new, modern research methods, as are used in Iceland, his company will not be hunting whales for the Japanese market this summer.

As yet, there has been no comment on possible fin whaling beyond the next season, nor on the prospects for minke whaling, which is still expected to begin around May, despite a limited domestic market for minke whale meat.

Recent Gallup polling found only around 3% of Icelanders claim to regularly eat whale meat. 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.

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.

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

In partnership with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as an alternative to the cruelty of whaling, encourages tourists to avoid eating whale meat and works with Icelandic restaurants, promoting those that choose not to serve whale meat through a ‘whale friendly’ restaurants campaign.

Ramage added: “We look forward to continuing our long-standing collaborations with the IceWhale coalition of whale watch operators, the Whales of Iceland Exhibition, Icelandic government ministries and agencies and elected and appointed officials across the political spectrum as we work to build a better world for animals and people.” 

IFAW supports calls for an enlarged sanctuary for whales in Faxafloi Bay outside Reykjavik and urges the Icelandic government to bring about a permanent end to the country’s commercial whaling.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on 020 7587 6708, mobile 07917 507717 or email

Alternatively visit

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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter


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Press Contact

Clare Sterling (IFAW UK)
Contact phone:
020 7587 6708
Contact mobile:
07917 507717
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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation