Iceland’s whaling has been a source of criticism recently. Kristján Loftsson, owner of the whaling company Hvalur (Icelandic for whale), was described in an article entitled ‘Shame on You, Iceland,’ in the Morning Star as a “butcher.”
“Whales are just another fish for me, an abundant marine resource, nothing else” said Loftsson.
Minister of Fisheries, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson described the article as radical and showing little understanding of Icelands’ use of resources.
Árni Gunnarsson, Chairman of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, told visir.is that he is concerned about the issue. “We are concerned about whaling itself but are also worried about not just that the animals that we watch are about to be hunted but also the image of the country.”
According to Árni, whaling hurts the efforts of tourism companies in promoting whale watching.
Icelandic whaling can be divided among two producers according to the types of whales they hunt in the North Atlantic. The company, Hvalur H/F exclusively hunts endangered Fin whales for international export. Others hunt smaller Minke whales for domestic consumption.
Although the Minke whaling vessels also use harpoon cannons, due to the smaller size of Minke whales, the boats are able to haul a caught whale on deck where the crew will cut up the whale at sea. Minke whale meat is sold in restaurants and markets within Iceland. However, a large percentage of the whale meat is actually eaten by tourists.
According to Gary Locke, U.S. Commerce Secretary, the United States strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban. “We urge Iceland to cease international trade of whale meat and work with the international community to safeguard whale species.” Locke said.
“ It is troubling that Iceland continues to pursue commercial whaling outside the boundaries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), without member oversight or analysis by the Commission’s scientific committee,” he added.
The fin whale is globally listed as an endangered species.