The surplus of unsold whale meat in cold storage is growing exponentially and, according to Statistics Iceland, only 450 kilogrammes of whale meat have been exported since 2006.
Kristján Loftsson, director of the whaling company Hvalur hf, told Fréttatíminn that there is approximately 2.4 billion ISK’s worth of whale meat in cold storage, “based on hunting done in the summer of 2010, and partly from 2009.”
Kristján says that the lack of exports is due in part to the tsunami which devastated Japan earlier this year. However, the surplus figures are based on counts made in September 2010. At that time, the surplus had more than doubled from 2009.
Furthermore, figures compiled from Statistics Iceland show that since 1999, no whale meat has been exported for sale to any country, apart from 650 kilos sold to the Faeroe Islands in 2006 for 325,000 ISK.
The figures are a reflection of questions raised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) about the economics of whale hunting. As IFAW UK director Rob Marsland told the Grapevine last September:
“Economics of whaling has always been a mystery,” he says. … “We were perplexed, because in 2008, the amount of fin whale meat being eaten in Japan was in decline, there is no fin whale meat being eaten in Iceland, and yet here’s [Kristján] Loftsson [the head of Iceland’s sole whaling company] saying he’s going to make lots of money. So it was confusing to us.”
How does he do it? Essentially, it works like this: every few months, Kristján sends fin whale meat to Japan, where it sits in customs for 3 months while undergoing toxicity tests. Then it is sold to a company that Kristján himself owns. “I don’t use the word ‘exporting’ for what he does with the whale meat,” Rob says. “I call it ‘transferring’.”