Sunday 15 May 2011

Iceland puts fin whale hunt on ice


The Icelandic whaling company Hvalur h/f has taken a decision to forestall its 2011 hunt for endangered fin whales. Unfortunately the move has been made for economic rather than environmental reasons and the reprieve might be short-lived.

Under pressure from the powerful fisheries lobby, the Government of Iceland has increased the annual quota for fin whales dramatically in recent years. In 2003 Iceland announced to the International Whaling Commission its intention to issue annual quotas that included 100 fin whales. This was increased to 150 in 2009, and 200 in 2010.

Fin whales are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

While some Icelanders still have a taste for minke whale, most of the fin whale meat is exported to Japan. The main reason cited for the decision to delay the start of the Icelandic fin whale hunt is the extensive damage caused to Japan’s whale meat processing infrastructure by the earthquakes and tsunami earlier this year. But it is also likely that consumer demand has played a part.

Two years ago, in June 2009, Icelandic media reported that the export of whale meat to Japan had been temporarily suspended because of slow sales and low prices.  This is despite extensive marketing by the Japanese Government to encourage whale meat consumption, especially by the young.

Iceland’s whaling industry is also subsidised by the government while the country is still reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis and continued public backlash over the government’s economic management.

Hvalur h/f is expected to review its position in about three months. In the meantime, Iceland’s hunt for up to 200 minke whales will continue as planned.



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