Reports indicate blue whale or rare blue/fin whale hybrid killed by Icelandic whaling operation

Early on the morning of July 7th, Icelandic whaler Kristian Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur hf, the only Icelandic company involved in fin whaling, hunted and killed a whale which initial photographic evidence strongly suggests is either a blue whale or a rare blue/fin whale hybrid.  

Blue whales have been protected under international law since 1966 as populations have been nearly decimated by commercial whaling. ‘Hybrid’ whales, which are a genetic combination of both blue and fin whales, have previously been recorded by scientists but continue to be quite rare. The killing of a possible blue whale or blue/fin whale hybrid, even if unintentional, demonstrates the difficulty for whalers at sea to identify which species they are actually pursuing. The result is that a protected species ultimately suffers the collateral damage resulting from an unnecessary and increasingly unpopular hunt.  

In early June, Loftsson announced his company’s intention to resume the hunting and killing of fin whales, our planet’s second largest and endangered whale species, with a 2018 quota of 238 individuals. There had been no fin whaling in Iceland since 2015, after Loftsson himself cited difficulties in trading the whale meat with its primary market of Japan.

As of this moment, Icelandic authorities are actively investigating the recent hunting death of the blue or blue/fin whale hybrid, using genetic analyses to determine its definitive origin. Regardless, both blue and blue/fin whales hybrids are protected by international conventions. International trade of blue whales or blue/fin whale hybrid or any of their parts is illegal.  

IFAW, who has been working closely with Icelandic politicians and the general public to end commercial whaling in Iceland, calls upon Loftsson and Hvalur hf to cease all whaling operations permanently and to prevent further harm to these endangered species which not only play a crucial role within the marine ecosystem, but also embody such a rich national and cultural heritage as well.

UPDATE: Genetic testing has since confirmed that the whale in question was a blue/fin whale hybrid. Some serious questions still remain unanswered, to read more about the issue as well as IFAW’s stance please refer to a blog piece we wrote for LINK, a coalition of UK environmental NGOs of which IFAW is a member.


Post a comment


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