The image is not of the Fin Whale killed on Friday. Photo from EIA.
Conservation and animal protection organizations were horrified at the slaughter on Friday of an endangered fin whale by Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, in defiance of the international ban on commercial whaling.
The hunt is Iceland’s first in three years and marks the start of a whaling season that could end up with as many as 238 of these majestic creatures killed.
A 67-foot fin whale which landed overnight at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður, Iceland, tragically became the first kill of the controversial new season.
Hvalur CEO Kristján Loftsson recently sparked outrage when he announced plans to resume his hunt of the second largest animal on the planet and to market fin whale meat, blubber and bones for iron supplements and other medicinal or food products.
“This really is a paper-thin excuse to keep fin whaling alive,” Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager for WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, noted in a statement. “There is no justification for killing an endangered species for any reason, let alone in the name of ‘medicine.’ These whales often die in agony and for what? A desperate marketing gimmick with no proven benefit or safety record?”
For the first time since it resumed commercial whaling in 2006, Iceland’s self-allocated fin whaling quota allows whalers to expand their hunt to waters east of the country.
“Fin whales are highly migratory, endangered and protected by a number of international treaties,” said Susan Millward, director of marine programs for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “The fin whales cruelly targeted by Icelandic grenade harpoons could be the same animals seen by tourists in places such as Ireland and the Azores. This slaughter comes at the expense of Iceland’s own whale watch industry and also threatens the livelihoods of people thousands of miles away.”
Fin whale meat is not popular in Iceland; the major market is in Japan. Since 2008, more than 8,800 metric tons of whale meat and blubber have been shipped to Japan, despite the ban on international trade in whale meat under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“It is unfathomable in this day and age that a country so well known for its nature tourism is tarnishing its image by allowing commercial whaling to continue in the face of growing domestic and international opposition,” said Clare Perry, ocean campaigns leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “We are urging the Icelandic government to recognize that this unnecessary and unsustainable industry brings no real benefits to Iceland’s economy and to refuse further whaling quotas.”
According to recent tax filings, Hvalur’s whaling has not made a profit for some time. It is the company’s indirect shareholdings in other corporations that allow whaling to continue. Hvalur draws profits from well-known Icelandic corporations, such as IT firm Origo hf and fishing gear giant, Hampiðjan.
At the same time, public support for fin whaling is plummeting. A 2018 survey by Icelandic polling company, MMR, found that only 34% of Icelanders support whaling, a 26% drop from 2013 and 34% of the population actively oppose whaling, compared to 18% in 2013.
Last week, a group of peaceful protesters gathered at Reykjavík harbor to mark the official opening of the fin whaling season and Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has called for a review of the impacts of whales and whaling on Iceland’s image and economy.
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