Whales Have Something to Cheer About!

Good news for the world’s largest mammals.

Whale jumping out of the waters off Iceland.

(Andrea Quartarone / Shutterstock.com)

Whales are a large part of Icelandic culture and play an important role in the country’s tourism industry. Whale watching has become a major tourist attraction with the best time of year to view these majestic creatures is in the spring through summer.

But there is a darker side to Iceland’s history with whales and that is the country’s whaling industry. While most of the world has discontinued this practice due to less demand  and public pressure to save the endangered mammals, Iceland is one of three countries that continue to hunt Whales. Now, reported Iceland Review, the country is planning to discontinue this practice in 2024.

The current government allows for whaling to continue until 2023 but Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries said in an Op-ed published in Iceland's morning newspaper Morgunblaðið, that she sees little reason to continue to permit the practice when the current license expires.

According to Svavarsdóttir, the whaling industry is no longer economically important to the country and that in the past three years, only one minke whale was killed for its meat. That’s because there is a decline in consumption of whale meat in Japan (where the meat has been exported to).

Whaling moratorium
Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 by an embargo by The International Whaling Commission (IWC), an organization with the mission to provide for the conservation of whales and the proper development of the industry according to CNN. Iceland withdrew from the ICU in 1992 and later rejoined in 2002 but took out a “reservation ”regarding the ban.

The country resumed commercial whaling in 2006. A report from WDC, a conservation organization, showed that more than 1,700 minke, fin, and sei whales have been killed by Icelandic whale hunters but there was no whaling in the 2019, 2020, or 2021 seasons due to a moratorium.

Why the industry has suddenly declined
While Iceland’s annual quota for 2019 through 2023 allows for the hunting of 217 minke whales and 219 fin whales, two of the three major whaling companies have hung up their harpoons and stopped hunting completely, reported The Guardian.

The reasons for the decline are a perfect storm. The hunt became more expensive after a no-fishing coastal zone was extended that forced whalers to work further offshore.

At around the same time, the demand for Icelandic whale meat declined dramatically  since Japan resumed whaling in 2019. New stringent requirements for imported meat in Japan also helped to reduce the importation of whale meat. All of this leads to rather good news for Iceland’s majestic whales.

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