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Iceland towards the end of whaling


For three consecutive summers (the usual catch season), harpoons have already come to a virtual standstill in the waters of the vast North Atlantic island, despite large quotas for the current period (2019-2023).

In question: the resumption of commercial hunting in Japan, the main outlet for cetacean meat, as well as the entry into force of a coastal zone where fishing is prohibited, which requires going further offshore.

2024″,”text”:”Unless otherwise stated, there is little reason to allow whaling from 2024″}}”>Unless otherwise stated, there is little reason to allow whaling from 2024the date on which the current quotas expire, underlined the Minister of Fisheries, Svandis Svavarsdottir, member of the left-wing environmentalist party in power in Iceland, in a column published by the daily morgunbladid.

There is little evidence that there is an economic benefit to practicing this activity. »

A quote from Svandis Svavarsdottir, Icelandic Fisheries Minister

Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries in the world to allow whaling, despite regular criticism from animal and environmental activists, warnings about meat toxicity and a declining market .

Reassessed in 2019, Icelandic quotas allow 209 catches each year for the fin whale, the second largest marine mammal after the blue whale, and 217 for the minke whale (also called minke whale), one of the smallest cetaceans, and this until the end of 2023.

But, due to a lack of outlets, the two main license-holding companies are at a standstill, and one of them, IP-Útgerd, announced in the spring of 2020 that it was definitely stopping its catches. The other, Hvalur, had opted out of the last three campaigns.

Only one animal has been harpooned in the last three seasons in Iceland, a minke whale in 2021.

Japan took the opposite path

Japan, by far the main market for whale meat, resumed commercial whaling in 2019 after a three-decade hiatus.

A whale is hoisted onto the deck of a ship.  She rests in a net.

In September 2017, Japan said it would no longer hunt whales in the Antarctic Ocean and would limit the territory used for commercial fishing.

Photo: Associated Press

If the archipelago sold its own goods via catches scientistsquota hunting was able to resume after Tokyo’s withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission.

Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) but Iceland, which opposed the moratorium, resumed it in 2003.

Only blue whale hunting, banned by the commission, is also banned in Iceland. In 2018, the last significant whaling summer in Icelandic waters, 146 fin whales and six minke whales were speared.

With its economy increasingly oriented towards tourism, the island of 370,000 inhabitants is also seeing the development of the whale watching sector for foreign visitors, who are more attracted by live cetaceans.

Meat laden with heavy metals

The context of hunting has also been gloomy in Norway for several years. Whale hunters are struggling to fill the quotas granted by Oslo and the number of boats engaged in this highly controversial activity on the international scene continues to decrease.

In 2021, 575 cetaceans were caught, less than half of the authorized quotas, by the 14 vessels still operating in Norwegian waters.

In the North Sea, the Faroe Islands allow ritual hunting of delphinids, the grindfor local consumption, despite there too a meat loaded with heavy metals and international controversies.

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