Icelandic support for whaling on the decline, polling reveals

Icelandic support for whaling on the decline, polling reveals
Wednesday, 25 October, 2017

Icelandic support for minke whaling has dropped by 5% in just one year, according to polling results released today (Wednesday).

Gallup polling commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reveals that 45.8% of Icelanders now claim to support minke whaling, compared to 50.8% last year. This is also the first time that such polling has found Icelandic support for whaling to have been less than 50%.

Icelandic support for fin whaling has also significantly reduced, with 35.4% now declaring they are in favour of fin whaling, compared to 42% in 2016. Just four years ago, similar polling found 65.7% in support of minke whaling and 56.9% in favour of fin whaling, around 20% higher.

Icelanders were also polled on whether or not they supported the establishing of a sanctuary for whales in the important whale watching area of Faxaflói, just outside Reykjavik Harbour. This found 62% of people living in Reykjavik supported the notion of a Faxaflói whale sanctuary, with 48.4% support across the country as a whole and just 18.1% of Icelanders against the notion.

Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Marine Conservation Programme Director, said: “We are heartened by these results which provide further evidence that killing whales for commercial reasons is outdated and on the decline. With little appetite for whale meat these days and the global movement for whale conservation having far more support, we urge the Icelandic government to end the cruel slaughter of whales, once and for all, and instead support responsible whale watching as the way forward for whales and people. The creation of a Faxaflói whale sanctuary would further protect whales and Iceland’s vital whale watching economy.”

IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale. In conjunction with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, IFAW 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 in recent years from 40% when ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ was launched in 2011.

In August, IFAW revealed that Iceland’s lone fin whaling crusader, Kristjan Loftsson, was attempting to ship hundreds of tonnes of fin whale meat out of the country, bound for Japan. Despite limited market for the meat and opposition at home and abroad to the bloody trade in the endangered whale species, the shipment, which is at least two years old, was loaded onto a cargo vessel to begin a very long and circuitous route to Japan.

Loftsson’s company, Hvalur hf, killed 155 endangered fin whales in 2015, chiefly for the Japanese market. There has been no fin whaling in Iceland in the last two years, with Loftsson claiming this was due to difficulties in trading the meat with Japan. Minke whaling in Iceland continues with a self-allocated kill quota for each year of 224 minke whales, though a fraction of this quota is usually taken. A total of 17 minke whales were harpooned this season, compared to 46 last year.

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% of restaurants in this area now have whale meat on their menus. 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.

More than 100,000 tourists and Icelanders have signed IFAW’s petition pledging not to eat whale meat. IFAW and Icewhale are jointly campaigning for Faxaflói Bay to be declared a sanctuary to better protect whales. To sign this petition or find out more about ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ visit

Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £20 million annually. More than 350,000 people went whale watching in Iceland last year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.


For more information, photographs or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717 or email

Alternatively visit

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%. Full results are available on request.

These latest polling figures also reveal that 41% of young people aged 18 to 24 are against minke whaling, while 39% are in favour. While 35% of people with a university degree are against minke whaling, 33% are in favour. 

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals 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 social at @action4ifaw and Facebook/IFAW.


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