Iceland’s Hvalur will resume hunting whales, with additional restrictions

Published on
September 8, 2023

Hvalur, Iceland’s sole fishing company conducting fin whale harvesting, has been given permission to resume operations.

Iceland Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Svandis Svavarsdótti said on 1 September the government will implement updated requirements for changes in methods and equipment, as well as additional supervision and training for those engaged in whale hunting, in order to address a finding from a government panel that Hvalur’s practices violated Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act.

That ruling, issued 20 June, postponed the country’s whaling season until 31 August.

The additional regulations put in place for 2023 include additional monitoring requirements, including inspections by the Norwegian Fisheries Agency and data collection by the Swedish Food Agency. Those two agencies will submit a report to the Icelandic ministry following the season summarizing the impact of the new rules.

While some of Hvalur’s catch is consumed domestically, much of it is exported to Japan, where whale meat remains available commercially. In 2022, Hvalur harvested 148 fin whales, following three years where no commercial whaling was allowed for the species, which is classified as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A report released by the Icelandic government found whaling has little direct impact on the country’s economy, accounting for 0.6 percent of Iceland’s seafood exports by value.

In a statement, the Animal Welfare Institute called for Iceland’s government to reverse course.

“Iceland’s whaling quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the global organization responsible for the conservation of whales and management of whaling,” AWI Senior Policy Consultant Kate O’Connell said. “Any whaling by Iceland undermines the effectiveness of the commercial whaling moratorium imposed by the IWC in 1986. Further, the country’s ongoing export of whale products to Japan disregards a global ban on commercial trade imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Iceland’s international reputation as a premiere nature destination is consistently eroded by these actions in defiance of international treaties. Living whales provide enormous benefits to local coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Despite today’s decision, we hope that Hvalur’s whaling permit will not be renewed in future seasons, and AWI will continue to push for an end to all commercial whaling.”

On 1 September, Iceland film production firm True North filed an injunction against Hvalur, alleging the company’s operation threatens its economic viability due to the harm it is causing to the country’s international reputation, according to Vísir.

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace

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