Commercial Whaling Opposition - IcelandAfter 14 years, Iceland decided to resume whaling activities
(Reykjavik, Iceland—16 June 2022)
As the Icelandic government increases pressure on the last remaining whaling company to end its hunt, public opposition in Iceland against fin whaling has increased to 35%—double the number who opposed in a previous survey—according to polling results released on 16 June 2022.
“Recent statements from the Icelandic Fisheries Ministers clearly indicate that political support for whaling in Iceland has come to an end,” explains Sharon Livermore, IFAW’s Marine Conservation Program Director. “This is mirrored by increased opposition to whaling amongst the Icelandic public.”
Polling commissioned by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) reveals that 35% of Icelanders now oppose fin whaling, while 33.2% are in favour. In 2013, similar polling found 17.1% opposing fin whaling and 56.9% being in favour.
Iceland’s lone fin whaling crusader, Kristján Loftsson, plans to resume killing the planet’s second largest whale species in June with a quota of 161 fin whales. The current five-year quota will expire in 2023.
Loftsson’s company, Hvalur hf, last went whaling in 2018 and killed 145 endangered fin whales, chiefly for the Japanese market. However, Loftsson has been unsuccessful in his attempts to establish an export market for these products, despite attempting to export fin whale meat to Japan since 2010.
Icelanders were also polled on whether or not they think whaling is important for the Icelandic economy. This found 52.5% of people considered whaling to be of no significance to the Icelandic economy and a mere 21% revealed they felt it was of importance. When asked about the effects of whaling on Iceland’s reputation, a staggering 64.3% of Icelanders revealed they felt whaling is bad for the country’s reputation.
Livermore, stated: “We are heartened by these results which provide further evidence that killing whales for commercial reasons is outdated and on the decline in the hearts and minds of Icelanders. There is clear opposition to this bloody trade in the endangered fin whale species both at home and abroad, with Icelanders concerned about relevance of whaling to the economy and instead showing far more support for whale conservation.”
Earlier this year, the Icelandic Minister for Fisheries, Svandis Svavarsdottir, publicly signalled an end to Icelandic whaling with the announcement that the government would be evaluating the social and economic impacts of commercial whaling and that no new quotas will be issued for an industry with no ongoing economic benefit to the country. Following this announcement, Kristján Loftsson announced his intentions to resume fin whaling this summer for the first time in almost four years and during the current quota regulations, which still permit the killing of whales until 2023.
IFAW has worked closely with Icelandic advocates, researchers and ecotourism operators since the country resumed whaling in 2006. In collaboration with local whale watch operators, IFAW ran its highly successful ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign on the streets of Reykjavik, which educated tourists about the reality of whaling and whale meat consumption. This campaign significantly curbed whale meat consumption by visitors to Iceland.
Whaling as an issue has vanished from the political agenda within Iceland. The topic was a notorious theme in Icelandic election campaigns for decades, but since 2016 it has decreased in prominence. Young voters are more concerned about climate change, the positive role living whales play in creating healthy ecosystems in the ocean and their contributions towards carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption from the atmosphere.
More than 1,500 fin and minke whales have been killed in Iceland since 2003—the year the country resumed commercial whaling after a 13-year hiatus. IFAW has worked with Icelanders since this time to promote responsible whale watching as an alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
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Notes to Editors: Polling was carried out by Maskina between 19–27 May 2022 to survey Icelanders’ attitudes to whale hunting. It used a sample size of 957. The survey was carried out online across Iceland targeting only those aged 18 years and over randomly selected from the Icelandic national registry. Full results are available on request.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org