Iceland urged to call off slaughter of endangered whales

Monday, 22 June, 2009
(London – June 18, 2009) – As the first of Iceland’s whaling ships reportedly heads to sea today to train its harpoons on 150 endangered fin whales, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Icelandic government to call off this cruel and needless slaughter now.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is unacceptably cruel – there is no humane way to kill a whale and research has shown that whales shot with explosive harpoons can take more than half an hour to die. Targeting an endangered species also raises serious conservation concerns as it pushes the threatened fin whales closer to extinction.

Opinion polling and independent economic research in Iceland has revealed little or no appetite for whale meat, while responsible whale watching, by contrast, is financially lucrative and one of Iceland’s biggest tourist draws.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “At a time when Iceland is struggling to rebuild its economy, it is in the country’s own interests more than ever before not to embark on activities which could damage Iceland’s international reputation and its business interests.

“There is simply no valid argument in favour of whaling – it is cruel, unnecessary and unsustainable. In Iceland’s case it is also illogical to pursue a policy for which there is little market. The most positive step which would benefit Icelanders and whales would be for the Icelandic government to end whaling now and work instead to protect its valuable whale watching industry.

“Whale watching generates almost £5m a year for coastal communities in Iceland - it offers a humane, sustainable and profitable alternative to whaling.”

The current whaling quotas were set earlier this year by the outgoing Fisheries and Agriculture Minister, Einar K Gudfinnsson. He granted commercial whaling quotas of up to 150 endangered fin whales and 100 minke whales a year for the next five years. Iceland’s new Fisheries Minister, Steingrimur J Sigfusson, later announced these catch allowances would remain for one year, despite only a limited domestic market for minke whales and no domestic market for fin whales. In recent days the catch limit for minke whales has been increased to 200.

The slaughter of minke whales began last month, at which time representatives from IFAW and other animal welfare organisations held a protest outside the Icelandic Embassy in London and met with the Icelandic Ambassador to express their concerns.

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