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June 6, 2011

Iceland is Still Whaling

Humane Society International

  • A fin whale and calf. Marshall Bruce/istock

Iceland’s annual minke whale hunt is currently underway. According to a recent report, Icelandic whalers have killed eight whales thus far, with 92 more to go to fulfill their self-allocated quota of 100 minkes.

A fin whale hunt was scheduled to begin at the end of June, but on May 10, 2011, Iceland announced that its whalers would not begin killing those whales as scheduled. At first glance, this appears to be a victory for the whales, but a cautious assessment is warranted. The country made a similar announcement in 2007, claiming that it would end commercial whaling, only to come back with an even more aggressive whaling plan in 2009, targeting additional whales and increasing exports. It appears that the 2011 hunt is simply being delayed, as the whalers have stated that their plan is to resume it later this summer.

Reasons why

Several factors may have contributed to the postponement. The market for whale meat in Iceland is limited, and after the earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan, exports to there have dropped drastically. There are approximately 2,000 tons of frozen fin whale products in storage in Iceland left from previous years.

Take Action: Urge the U.S. government to sanction Iceland for defiant whaling.

It is also possible that this delay is a way for Iceland to avoid controversy at this year’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting at a time when it is politically beneficial for it to lay low. Iceland is in the midst of membership negotiations with the EU, discussions that are greatly complicated by its whaling activities. Moreover, Iceland faces an imminent Pelly Certification and possible trade sanctions by the United States for continuing to defy the IWC commercial whaling ban.

Despite this delay of its fin whale hunt, Iceland still has a self-allocated quota of 154 of the animals for 2011. If it does not fulfill its quota this year, it could carry over the unused portion to 2012. It is also crucial to remember that Iceland’s fin whaling operation targets an endangered species and defies the international moratorium on commercial whaling, in addition to flouting a CITES Appendix I listing by trading in whale products.

Moving forward

HSI is working closely with other animal protection organizations to make this pause in Iceland’s fin whale hunting a permanent one. We will continue to press the Icelandic government to give up all whaling and join with the majority of nations around the world whose citizens want protections for whales wherever they swim. Help by donating or taking action.

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