Iceland's fin whaler declares truce

Tuesday, 10 May, 2011
Under pressure from all sides, Kristjan Loftsson, the lone Icelandic whaler responsible for killing 280 endangered fins whales in the past five years, has announced that he is laying off 30 staff and stopping whaling, with no resumption before the end of the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in July, at the earliest.

Robbie Marsland, IFAW’s UK Director and global Iceland whales campaign manager, said: “Faced with the enormous difficulty in trading with Japan, the only legally possible buyer; the fact that there is no market for fin whale meat in Iceland; the threat of sanctions from the US and an implacably anti-whaling EU; it looks like Mr Loftsson has finally recognised that there is no real point in continuing to kill fin whales. We hope he continues to leave them in peace.”

Meanwhile, minke whaling in Iceland continues. Last year 60 minke whales were killed. IFAW opposes whaling because it is inherently cruel – there is no humane way to kill a whale.

Trade with Japan has been difficult over the past five years and Mr Loftsson still has more than 2,000 tonnes of whale meat in deep freeze in Iceland. He cites further difficulties due to alleged damage done to production facilities by the recent tragic tsunami in Japan.  

While about 5% of Icelanders eat minke whale meat, there is no market for fin whale meat in Iceland. The US has informed Iceland that it is considering the use of sanctions against Icelandic fin whaling and both Germany and the Netherlands have passed resolutions in their parliaments that Iceland should not be allowed to join the EU and carry on any whaling. The UK Government is opposed to all commercial whaling.

“IFAW has been carefully campaigning in Iceland for the past eight years. We have sought to advocate responsible whale watching and to question the economics and politics behind Icelandic whaling. We are pleased to see this positive move and shall await developments with much interest and some optimism,” said Mr Marsland.

Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, Chair of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association (Icewhale), responded to this news by saying: “We welcome this move and look forward to a time when whale watching is the only whale business in Iceland.”

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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