NEWS AND COMMENT – ICELAND: The Times has reported that Iceland has announced it will stop hunting whales by 2024 because of a decline in demand for whale meat. The fisheries minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir said:
“There is little proof that there is any economic advantage to this activity.”
The country’s annual quota for 2019-23 allows for the hunting of 209 fin whales; the second largest species after the blue whale. They can also hunt 217 minke whales. However, a minke whale killed in 2021 is the only one hunted in the past three years because licence holders have been put off by increased operational costs, the effects of the pandemic and a loss of desire by the population to eat the meat.
The minister said that whale hunting had not had any significant beneficial economic impact to the country in recent years. Apparently, Japan has been the biggest buyer of Icelandic whale meat but consumption in Japan has declined year-on-year.
The decision to stop hunting whales is an economic one and not linked it seems to me with conservation. Perhaps that is the only way to motivate commercial enterprises and governments to be more environmentally friendly; hit them in the pocket.
Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019 after a 30-year ban. Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 under the International Whaling Commission embargo. Japan withdrew from the IWC in December 2018.
Outside of Iceland, Norway and Japan, I would argue that whaling is disliked either strongly or in passing. These countries are out of step with the attitude of the citizens of other developed countries in my view.
Iceland continued a “scientific whaling program” after the 1986 embargo. They did this “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”. Comment: my personal view is that that is a fiction. It is the same argument that Japan used. The world knows that this is a fictional argument to circumvent the embargo.
Iceland killed more than 1,700 minke, fin and sei Wales since the 1986 embargo according to information from the WDC (Well and Dolphin Conservation). Fin whales are classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Sei are classified as Endangered. So, Iceland was hunting and killing endangered species for commercial reasons.
Perhaps their citizens have decided to stop eating whale meat because of conservation issues. It is their way of stopping whaling operations. It is their way of objecting to the Icelandic government’s circumvention of the embargo. And it worked.