Recent investigations have brought to light that Iceland’s whaling “industry” is largely the private business of a single man, and that the hunting of endangered fin whales has been linked to Icelandic fish exports.
One of the strongest areas of contention with regards to Iceland’s fishing practices is with regards to whale hunting. Many Icelanders see the practice as their exercising of a right to use the resources of territorial waters in any manner they see fit. However, many have pointed out that the fin whale – among the species Iceland hunts – are classified as endangered, with only less than 100,000 to roughly 119,000 remaining in the entire world, only 30,000 of which are in the North Atlantic.
The Ecologist has brought to light that the whaling “industry” can be more accurately called a one-man-show. Specifically, the work of a man who created his own business and overseas market almost simultaneously.
Iceland’s biggest whaling company Hvalur has killed 273 endangered fin whales and exported more than 1,200 tonnes of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan since 2008, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), in a trade worth estimated US$17 million.
The EIA says Icelandic businessman Kristján Loftsson and his firm Hvalur are the ‘driving force’ behind the whale trade. Loftsson organised the opening of a company Misaka Shoji in 2009 to import Icelandic whale meat into the lucrative Japanese market – generating an estimated US$7 million in profit already, according to the EIA.
On top of this, simply not buying whale meat does not appear to be enough if consumers do not want their money going to the whaling industry. There is, in fact, a link between whale hunting and fish processing.
Doncaster-based Warners Fish Merchants Ltd supplies scores of UK restaurants, fish and chip shops and hotels with cod and haddock sourced from HB Grandi, one of Iceland’s biggest fishing companies.
HB Grandi’s facilities have been used to process meat from fin whales hunted by Hvalur.
What’s more Hvalur’s managing director Kristjan Loftsson is deputy chairman of HB Grandi. Arni Vilhjalmsson, chairman of Hvalur, is also chair of HB Grandi.
When contacted by the Ecologist, HB Grandi, which exports half of all its fish to the UK, said it didn’t hunt whales itself but had in the past leased one of its buildings to Hvalur for processing whale meat. It also admitted its biggest shareholder was a company called Vogun, owned by Hvalur.