First blood: Iceland resumes whale hunt, kills fin whale

| 17th June 2014
An endangered Fin whale landed at Miòsandur whaling station, Hvalfjördur, Iceland, in September 2010 © EIA.
An endangered Fin whale landed at Miòsandur whaling station, Hvalfjördur, Iceland, in September 2010 © EIA.
Icelandic whalers made their first kill of the 2014 hunting season - an endangered fin whale, landed today. Campaigners have condemned the hunt, and are calling for a boycott of whaling companies' seafood exports.
Since 2008, more than 5,540 tonnes of fin whale meat has been exported, with an unprecedented single shipment of 2,000 tonnes to Japan in March this year.

Conservation groups are calling on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its member governments to condemn Iceland's commercial whale hunt following confirmation that the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf has killed yet another endangered fin whale.

The whale was killed off Iceland's west coast and landed today at the company's processing station in Hvalfjörður, less than an hour's drive from the capital Reykjavik.

In addition to meat, the blubber and offal of the fin whale killed today will be rendered into oil.

The kill, the first of the 2014 season, coincides with a working party meeting of the European Union Environment Council in preparation for the meeting of the IWC in September. 

An illegal trade

Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002 with a reservation to the global moratorium on commercial whaling adopted in 1982, and then resumed commercial whaling in 2006.

Almost all the fin whale meat originating from the 2014 hunt is destined for Japan, despite a ban on international trade in fin whales under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Since 2008, more than 5,540 tonnes of fin whale meat has been exported, with an unprecedented single shipment of 2,000 tonnes to Japan in March this year.

Susan Millward, Executive Director at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said that Iceland's international reputation "is consistently eroded by promoting commercial whaling and trade in whale products in violation of international treaties."

EU countries must condemn these abuses

NGOs are pushing for governments to take a strong stand against Icelandic whaling ahead of, and during, the IWC meeting. Clare Perry, a campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), stated:

"EU member states have to wake up to the fact that commercial whaling and trade, in defiance of the IWC and CITES, is taking place right on their doorstep. This hunt of endangered whales must no longer go unchallenged - we look to EU member countries to lead opposition to Iceland's whaling at the IWC meeting in Slovenia."

Chris Butler-Stroud, CEO of Whale and Dolphin Conservation called for "urgent and concerted action by conservation-minded countries around the globe to oppose a hunt which is as unnecessary as it is brutal."

Almost 1,000 whales killed since 2003

Since Iceland first allowed whale hunts to resume in 2003, its whalers have killed nearly 1,000 whales, including 414 endangered fin whales and 530 minke whales, by exploiting controversial loopholes to evade the commercial whaling ban.

In 1982, the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling, effective from 1986/7. Iceland did not formally object to the moratorium at that time, but left the IWC in 1992.

In 2002, it rejoined with a reservation to the moratorium, which is not legally recognised by many nations. It resumed so-called 'scientific whaling' in 2003 and commercial whaling (including of fin whales) under its reservation in 2006.

This makes Iceland the only country in the world to carry out commercial hunting of fin whales - an endangered species. It has increased its whaling quotas in recent years and, in December 2013, announced a five-year block quota that could result in the killing of nearly 2,000 whales.

HB Grandi and Hvalur hf

HB Grandi, Iceland's biggest fishing and seafood export company has played an active role in Iceland's whaling industry, both promoting whaling and providing facilities in Arkranes, Iceland, for the processing of endangered fin whale meat for the export market.

Its chairman, Kristján Loftsson, is also the CEO of Hvalur hf, which just killed theg first whale of Iceland's hunting season.

In light of HB Grandi's role in promoting Icelandic whaling, non-governmental organisations have been working with fish wholesalers and retailers to ensure they are not sourcing fish from HB Grandi.

To date, several companies have confirmed they are opposed to commercial whaling and will not source HB Grandi products, including Waitrose, Sainsbury's, ASDA, Lidl, Icelandic Seachill, Brake Brothers and North American retailer High Liner Foods.



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