Iceland’s whaling magnate prepares to ship whale meat consignment to Japan

Iceland’s whaling magnate prepares to ship whale meat consignment to Japan
Wednesday, 16 August, 2017

Iceland’s lone whaling crusader, Kristjan Loftsson, is 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, has been loaded onto a cargo vessel.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has monitored dozens of boxes, all marked ‘whale meat’ in Japanese, being loaded onto the vessel Winter Bay in Hafnarfjordur harbour in Iceland over the last 24 hours.

Sharon Livermore, IFAW’s Marine Conservation Programme Officer, said: “Once again it appears whale meat from fin whales unnecessarily and cruelly killed in Iceland will be sent, at great expense to Mr Loftsson personally and to his country’s reputation, to Japan where there is little market for it.

“With Icelanders not even eating fin whale meat, this consignment represents endangered whales killed because of one man’s attempts to revive the international whale meat trade. This latest venture is at odds with recent statements about difficulties trading the meat with Japan, which was given as the reason for no fin whaling in Iceland over the last two years.

“With international outcry at previous whale meat shipments and the continued growth of responsible whale watching as a far more successful industry in Iceland, we urge Mr Loftsson and the Icelandic government to recognise that commercial whaling needs to be consigned to the history books, with whale watching being better for whales and the local economy.”

Winter Bay, registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis, was stuck in the same location for several weeks in 2015 after experiencing serious technical problems. It eventually left Iceland and, after further lengthy delay in Tromsö in Norway, sailed for the North-East passage through the Arctic. It will likely need to refuel in Norway if it takes the same route again.

In 2014, the freighter Alma made the same voyage to Japan carrying 2,000 tonnes of whale meat, sailing south of the Cape of Good Hope, rather than through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, which is a much shorter route. This was to avoid docking anywhere along the way following earlier shipments of whale meat being returned after international ports rejected their cargos.

Loftsson’s company, Hvalur hf, killed 155 endangered fin whales in 2015, chiefly for the Japanese market. Minke whaling in Iceland continues, with at least 17 minke whales killed so far this season.

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 addition, 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.

More than 100,000 tourists and Icelanders have signed IFAW’s petition pledging not to eat whale meat. Currently, IFAW and Icewhale are campaigning for Faxaflói Bay outside Reykjavik Harbour 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 £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.


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

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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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