Iceland issues five-year whaling quotas – ignoring meagre consumption of whale meat, major trade problems and opposition at home and abroad

Iceland issues five-year whaling quotas – ignoring meagre consumption of whale m
Monday, 16 December, 2013
Reykjavik, Iceland

Polling released today (Monday) reveals a mere 3% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly*, despite the Icelandic government issuing new quotas which would allow 229 minke whales and 154 endangered fin whales to be harpooned each year for the next five years.

A survey of Icelanders conducted by Gallup and commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found just 3% of Icelanders have bought whale meat six times or more in the last 12 months. The poll also revealed 75% of Icelanders never buy the meat, with this figure rising to 82% of women and 86% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

IFAW is disappointed that the Icelandic government continues to support the efforts of Iceland’s lone whaling crusader, businessman Kristjan Loftsson, by granting further quotas to slaughter whales instead of calling an end to the outdated and uneconomic practice which is bad for Icelanders as well as whales.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “We are deeply disappointed that such a controversial decision has been made in such a manner. To sneak the decision out on a Friday evening shortly before Christmas without any reference to Icelandic and international criticism of this unnecessary and inhumane trade demonstrates how embarrassing one stubborn whaler is becoming to Iceland.”    

A total of 280 fin whales were killed in Iceland’s waters between 2006 and 2010. Kristjan Loftsson then halted his fin whaling operation for two years, citing difficulties in trading the meat with Japan following its tsunami tragedy as a reason for cancelling the hunt in 2011 and 2012. It resumed this summer with 134 fin whales killed.

Minke whaling in Iceland, which has focussed on a limited domestic and tourism market, is also dwindling. Last year, 52 minke whales were killed, despite a catch limit of 216 and this year the figure dropped to 35.

In recent years, Loftsson has regularly exported relatively small amounts of fin whale meat to his own company in Japan, but has yet to find a demand for the meat on the Japanese market.

This summer both ports and carriers in Europe publicly rejected the whale meat trade when containers opened at ports in Rotterdam and Hamburg were returned to Iceland and met with public protests at the killing of whales for products such as dog food.

IFAW has worked alongside Icelandic whale watch operators for many years to promote whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling. Iceland is one of Europe’s top destinations for whale watching and last year it attracted 175,000 whale watchers.


* A sample size of 1,450 people aged 18 and over from across Iceland was surveyed via the Internet on attitudes towards whale hunting. The survey was carried out by Capacent Gallup during October 2013.

Iceland is at risk of diplomatic action by the United States over its commercial whaling activities.

For the last three years, IFAW has run a successful ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland, encouraging tourists visiting the country to support responsible whale watching but to avoid sampling whale meat.

This year IFAW, along with Icewhale, the Association of Icelandic whale watch operators, launched a Whale Friendly Restaurants scheme promoting restaurants which pledge not to serve whale meat. Almost 50% of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have so far signed up and display a Whale Friendly logo to tourists.

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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Post a comment

Press Contact

Clare Sterling (IFAW UK)
Contact phone:
+44 (0)207 587 6708
Contact mobile:
+44 (0)7917 507717
Contact email:
Sigursteinn Masson (Iceland)
Contact phone:
00354 8638361
Contact email:


Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime