Good news in our work means animals thrive and we therefore celebrate it. That’s how it was for me this morning when I woke up to the report that there will be no whaling in Iceland this summer. Something my colleagues at Humane Society International and I have fought since Iceland resumed whaling in 2003.
That’s right. For the first time in 16 years, no whales—not endangered fin whales, not minkes, no whales at all—will die at the point of a whaler’s harpoon in Icelandic waters. That just makes my day.
Hvalur hf., the single Icelandic company that hunts great whales, decided not to carry out any whaling, and so did another firm, IP Útgerð, that takes minke whales.
We’ll have to stay vigilant, however, because public policy in Iceland has not been of much help to us, despite the presence of elected officials who deplore the whaling industry and know what a smirch it is on Iceland’s reputation.
In February, Fisheries minister Kristján Þór Júlíusson authorized a continuation of fin and minke whale hunts until 2023, and Iceland’s Marine Research Institute has set a maximum yearly catch quota between 2018 and 2025 of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales.
Iceland decided to resume whaling in 2003 in opposition to the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) 1986 commercial whaling ban. In 2018, Icelandic whalers harpooned 145 fin whales and six minke whales.
In our book, even one whale killed for high-end sushi is one too many, and the respite gives us some time and space to rev up our public outreach and our work not merely to limit whaling’s political and commercial influence in Iceland, but to drive it into the history books where it truly belongs.