One of Iceland’s two whaling companies has announced it will stop whaling for good. This welcome decision, which comes just days after Iceland announced it will cancel all whale hunts for the second consecutive year, takes us one step closer to the demise of an inhumane industry built on immense suffering and harm for the ocean’s gentle giants.
IP Utgerd, the main minke whaling company in Iceland, told AFP news agency that it is no longer economically viable to hunt for whales in Icelandic waters, with its managing director, Gunnar Jonsson, saying “I’m never going to hunt whales again, I’m stopping for good.”
Meanwhile, the other Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur, which specializes in taking the far larger fin whales, has said it will cancel its hunt this year because of export problems and, to a lesser extent, restrictions linked to the coronavirus and social distancing requirements. Chief executive Kristjan Loftsson blamed stiff competition with Japan, the main export market for Iceland’s fin whale meat, for the decision. Loftsson said Japan’s food safety requirements were more stringent for imported meat than for meat from whales killed by Japanese whalers. Whales are especially vulnerable to environmental contaminants, which makes their meat unsafe for human consumption.
It was only last February that an Icelandic minister proudly announced new whaling quotas intended to allow the killing of more than 2,000 whales over the following five years. The sudden turnaround by Iceland indicates there are larger factors at play in the decision, including strong international censure of Iceland’s whaling. Importantly, in recent years, the industry has also faced internal scrutiny, including a growing national controversy about its cost to the country’s taxpayers and its legality.
In 2018, the last year during which Iceland’s whaling fleet was active, it killed a total of 146 fin whales and six minke whales.
The news from Iceland marks a major turning point in the battle against whaling. We are happy that the whaling companies there have realized the futility of this enterprise in the modern world. We now turn our focus to the two remaining outliers who continue to defy the global whaling moratorium, killing hundreds of whales each year: Japan and Norway. Their fleets remain active during the pandemic, even as the market for highly-subsidized whale meat is declining rapidly. It is time for these two nations to join Iceland and hang up their harpoons for good.