Iceland to resume hunting endangered fin whales

| 19th April 2018
Icelandic fishermen will resume their hunt for the endangered fin whale this summer with a target of 191 kills for the season. This is despite a recent poll of Icelanders showing a decline in support for whale hunting. CATHERINE HARTE reports

Kristján Loftsson's belligerent obsession to keep on hunting endangered fin whales is a kick in the teeth of world opinion and an international disgrace that shames Iceland’s otherwise solid environmental global reputation.

The Icelandic whale hunting company Hvalur hf has announced it intends to resume hunting endangered fin whales this summer after a two year hiatus.

It’s thought the company is currently exploring the use of whale meat in iron-based supplements for people suffering from anaemia as well as using gelatine from bones and whale pickles for medicines and in foodstuffs.

The newly announced whaling season is due to begin on 10th June.

Kick in the teeth

The last two killing seasons were scrapped with the chief executive of Hvalur hf , Kristján Loftsson citing ongoing difficulties with Japanese customs on imports of his whale products and the strong krona.

But the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) understands the two-year break has been used by the company to explore the possibility of processing other products for the Japanese market.

Clare Perry, leader of  EIA's Ocean Campaign, said: “We are utterly appalled to learn that after two years free from explosive harpoons and seas stained red with their blood, fin whales – supposedly granted international protection – are once more to be callously slaughtered in pursuit of a profit.

“Loftsson has single-handedly kept Icelandic fin whaling afloat even though Hvalur hf is understood to be running at a loss, subsidised by its holdings in other companies to which it is connected and seeking to create a demand for all sorts of disgraceful whale products such as ‘jerky’ pet treats for the Japanese market and whale beer for domestic consumption.

Wealthy maverick

“His belligerent obsession to keep on hunting endangered fin whales is a kick in the teeth of world opinion and an international disgrace that shames Iceland’s otherwise solid environmental global reputation."

She added: “The Government of Iceland needs to take a long, hard look at Loftsson’s activities, and its own collusion in enabling them, and ask itself whether the profound damage done to the country’s credentials as a tourist destination is worth allowing a wealthy maverick to continue pursuing what can only been viewed as a perverse vendetta again these magnificent creatures.”

Iceland left the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1992 in protest over the global moratorium on commercial whaling, but rejoined in 2002 with a reservation to the moratorium and resumed commercial whaling in 2006.

Since 2009, Hvalur hf has exported products from hundreds of fin whales to 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).

This Author

Catherine Harte is a contributing editor of  The Ecologist. This story is based on a news release from the Environmental Investigation Agency ( EIA).

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