“Whales are just another fish for me, an abundant marine resource, nothing else.”
That’s how Kristján Loftsson, the wealthy CEO of Iceland’s last remaining fin whale–hunting operation, reportedly feels about the largest (and arguably most awe-inspiring) animals on Earth. His company, Hvalur hf (Whale Inc.), is preparing to start hunting fin whales once again, after the hunt was called off three times. But fin whales aren’t “abundant”—in fact, they’re endangered.
That’s part of the reason the International Whaling Commission (IWC) instituted a global moratorium on commercial whaling. But operators in Japan, Norway, and Iceland openly defy the moratorium, despite international outrage and little demand for whale meat. Hvalur is the only company still killing endangered fin whales—even though there’s no market for their meat in Iceland. Since 2006, the company has killed 706 of them. In 2007, Icelandic media reported that about one-third to one-half of those killed had been dumped in landfills. Still, Loftsson’s quota for this year is nearly 200.
His revenue comes from Japan, where there’s reportedly so little demand for fin whale meat that much of it is sitting stockpiled in warehouses. Japan purportedly buys it mainly to help ensure that it’s not the only nation still engaging in commercial whaling. But interest in whale meat in Japan is dwindling, as are profits—so there’s no reason for either country to continue the hunts.
When hunters spot a fin whale, they fire a 90 mm cannon to impale the animal with a grenade-tipped harpoon. A rope attached to the harpoon allows them to tie the whale to the ship and tow him or her to a butcher station onshore.
Disappointing and unnecessary – Icelandic fishermen will resume their hunt for the endangered fin #whale this year and have set a target of 191 kills for the season: https://t.co/aDHrlEl0n2 via @guardianeco pic.twitter.com/G8sO854UBP
— IFAW EU (@IFAWEU) April 19, 2018
The IWC enacted its moratorium in 1986, but Iceland used the tired old “scientific research” excuse to continue whale hunting for three more years. Most of the whale meat from those hunts was fed to animals on fur farms. The hunts ceased until 2002, when Iceland issued a reservation to the moratorium and resumed whale hunting again. But whaling was called off in 2011–2012 and again in 2016–2017 because of importation issues with Japan.
During the last few years, countries around the world have worked to end the commercial hunt, including those in the European Union, which blocked the passage of Hvalur’s whaling vessels. And the U.S. was ready to impose economic sanctions on Iceland right before the last hunt was canceled.
You can help end the fin whale hunt.
- E-mail Loftsson at [email protected] and Hvalur CFO Guðmundur Steinbach at [email protected] and urge them to call off the whale hunt. Please keep your messages polite and respectful, as this helps the animals’ cause more.
- Contact Iceland’s ambassador to the U.S., Geir H. Haarde, at [email protected] and politely express your opposition to commercial whaling. You can also contact the foreign minister of Iceland, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, at [email protected] and kindly ask him to reconsider Iceland’s support for whaling.
- Most of the whale meat consumed in Iceland is eaten by tourists who mistakenly believe that it’s a traditional Icelandic dish. It isn’t—in fact, few residents eat whale meat. And even if many did, tradition is no excuse for cruelty. If you’re planning to visit Iceland, say no to whale meat and urge your travel companions to do the same.
- And if you truly want to protect whales and dolphins, you should also say no to fish. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, porpoises, and whales are killed in fishing nets and gear every year as “bycatch.” Many of these species are in danger of extinction. But no marine mammals have to die for tasty, plant-based faux fish.