Whaling season expected to begin imminently in Iceland

Whaling season expected to begin imminently in Iceland
Friday, 1 May, 2015
London, UK

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

Before any whales are harpooned in Icelandic waters this year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Icelandic government to respect the wishes of Reykjavik City Council which recently passed a cross-party resolution calling on the minister of fisheries to create an enlarged sanctuary for whales in Faxafloi Bay.

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.

Iceland’s self-allocated kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 239 minke whales this summer. The same quota was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed. This year’s catch limit for fin whaling, which normally begins from June, is 154. Last year Iceland’s whalers took 137 endangered fin whales.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for IFAW, said: “All indications are that sadly preparations are under way for this season’s minke whaling to begin in Iceland. We urge the Icelandic government to step in before the first harpoon is fired and make a clear move to show it supports whale watching, not whale killing.”

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. 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.

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.

Last September, the 28 member states of the European Union led a coalition including the US, Australia, Brazil, Israel and New Zealand in a political demarche stating their “strong opposition to Iceland’s continuing and increased harvest of whales…and to its ongoing international trade in whale products.”

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

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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Press Contact

Clare Sterling (IFAW UK)
Contact phone:
+44 (0)20 7587 6708
Contact mobile:
+44 (0)7917 507717
Contact email:


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