Killing Whales Is As Wise As Shooting Yourself In The Foot.

Icelandic media is reporting that whalers have killed a 7.4-metre male minke whale. The whale, caught Tuesday near Reykjavik, is being brought ashore later today. Even though the first shots may have been fired in Iceland the result echos far beyond the whaling area of Faxafloi Bay.

Here at IFAW we’ve been working to warn the Icelandic government that its decision to resume commercial whaling risks damage to the country’s economy and its international reputation.

Since announcing on Monday that the government issued permits for the slaughter of 40 minke whales I’ve spoken to a number of friends in the whale watching industry and remarkably they agree that killing whales simply makes no economic sense.  Mike Starr, Port Captain for New York Waterways said it best when he sarcastically remarked earlier today "If I'm going to kill whales why don’t I just take all my money out of the bank and set it on fire.” For Captain Starr, and millions around the world just like him, watching live whales is their livelihood. He went on to say;  “Killing whales is as productive for the economy as shooting yourself in the foot!”

Mike has a tendency to be melodramatic at times, but not today.  Whale watching is a billion dollar industry and many question the economic decision to kill whales. It appears as though whoever is at the helm of Iceland’s decision to begin whaling is simply not speaking to the crew who have a pulse on the Icelandic economy.

You have to wonder what the economic rationale is for killing a whale to sell it once versus protecting whales and selling out whale watching trips for decades.

Maybe killing whales is good for Iceland’s economy?  After all, the economies of many countries are hurting these days. Gallup polling carried out in Iceland in 2006 shows that only 1.1% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4% of 16 to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat.  Obviously, the whaling decision isn’t an economically wise one.  In fact, with 100,000 people going whale watching in a country of only 300,000, income from a booming whale watching industry is critical to the Icelandic economy.

I have no idea how much a whale steak sells for, but say, just for numbers sake, a whaler gets a 100 pounds of steaks from every whale killed.  Lets assume each steak sells for $10. That means Mr. Hypothetical Whaler might make  $1,000 once.  Now say you have that same whale and same whaler on his same whale hunting boat, but rather than shoot a harpoon he takes passengers to shoot pictures. His boat holds 100 people who each pay $20 to go whale watching. The result is Mr. Whaler brings home $2000 for a single trip. Since the whale is alive he goes out a couple times a day, for 6 months a year. The result is exponentially more income that would ever come from killing that same whale and using the same boat. Only cemeteries make money from death, and even they’re not getting repeat customers.  Whaling is of no domestic benefit and we didn’t even discuss the international economic impact.

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