In February 2019, Icelandic authorities announced their plan to kill more than 2,000 whales over a five-year period. Because the global demand for whale meat is declining, the trade is considered to be inhumane, and the conservation argument has flaws, environmentalists are enraged by the development.
Every year until the year 2023, whalers will be authorized to harpoon 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales in Icelandic waters. The move was approved, despite falling public support for whaling in Iceland.
The nation’s fisheries minister, Kristjan Thor Juliusson, claims the numbers are sustainable and based on “the latest scientific research.” In a statement, the government cited the economic benefits of whaling, as well as official figures revealing how populations of the once endangered fin whale are reviving. “During the most recent count in 2015, their population in the central North Atlantic was estimated at 37,000, or triple the number from 1987,” the statement reads.
But activists and conservationists disagree. The Icelandic Environmental Association, specifically, criticized the research on which the Fisheries Ministry based its quotas. And, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), an organization dedicated to protecting whales around the world, said whaling is no longer beneficial to the country’s economy.
“This is a country that’s embraced whale watching and has a different relationship with whales now,” said WDC spokesman Chris Butler-Stroud. “The reality is, the whale meat that’s being consumed there is mostly by tourists, unfortunately. … If it was down to local consumption, this probably would be dead in the water.”
Last year, Iceland was the center of a controversy after two rare blue/fin whale hybrids and at least a dozen pregnant females were killed in its waters. Activists believed change would finally occur, as a result. But, no such luck. “The Icelandic government’s decision to continue to kill whales – amongst the most peaceful and intelligent beings on the planet – is morally repugnant as well as economically bankrupt,” said Vanessa Williams-Grey, a campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a ban on commercial whaling. Despite being a member of the IWC, Iceland has continued to hunt whales with its own quotas. Japan also a loophole that allows killing whales for scientific purposes to bypass the International Whaling Commission ban.
“It is well known that overexploitation by the whaling industry led to serious declines in many of the world’s populations of whales. … Many are now in the process of recovering, although not all,” says the IWC website.
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IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia