Iceland says it will end whaling from 2024 amid dwindling demand and continuing controversy.
“There are few justifications to authorize whale hunting beyond 2024,” when current quotas expire, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir said in an op-ed in Friday’s Morgunblaðið newspaper.
The minister wrote it was “undisputed” that whale hunting had not had much economic significance to Iceland in recent years, with no big whale caught in the last three years, except for one minke whale in 2021.
“Japan has been the largest buyer of [Icelandic] whale meat, but its consumption is declining year by year. Why should Iceland take the risk of continuing fishing that has not yielded economic benefits, in order to sell a product that is in low demand?” she asked.
After a 30-year ban, Japan resumed commercial whaling in its waters in 2019.
Commercial whaling was banned in a 1986 International Whaling Commission embargo, but Japan withdrew from the IWC in December 2018, marking their return to whaling by harpooning two minke whales.
Svandís also pointed out whale hunting has been controversial and recalled that US retail chain Whole Foods had stopped marketing Icelandic products for a while as a result.
According to the IWC, whose purpose is “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry,” Iceland continued a small “scientific whaling program” after the 1986 embargo.
Iceland left the IWC in 1992 but rejoined in 2002, this time taking out a “reservation” against the embargo.
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in October 2006 in a move “furiously disputed by many countries angry at what they regarded as Iceland’s attempt to bypass international regulations,” according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), a non-profit organization.
More than 1,700 minke, fin and sei whales have been killed in Iceland since the 1986 embargo, according to data from the WDC. The same report found that 852 fin whales were slaughtered in Iceland from 2006 to 2018 – adding that there was no whaling in the 2019, 2020 or 2021 seasons.
Fin whales are classed as a vulnerable species on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, while sei whales are categorized as an endangered. The status of minke whales is unknown, according to the Red List.