From Iceland — Whale Watching Tourist Witnesses Hunted Whales Towed To Shore

Whale Watching Tourist Witnesses Hunted Whales Towed To Shore

Published August 22, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Aishling Muller & Timothy Baker

Two recent events have increased pressure on the Ministry of Fisheries to cut short the whaling quota, and end the practice altogether.

First off, representatives from whale watching companies in Reykjavík and Húsavík, along with volunteers from SEEDS, delivered 68,000 signed postcards to the Ministry of Fisheries yesterday. These postcards contain the pledge that the person signing will not eat whale meat during their visit in Iceland. Most of these cards were signed by tourists, but some Icelanders have signed them as well.

Second, American tourist Timothy Baker, while out on a whale watching excursion, did indeed see some whales. That is, fin whales, already harpooned, and being towed back to shore by the whaling boat Hvalur 8, which is owned by Kristján Loftsson. Grapevine was informed of the matter by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

“Watching the whaling vessel heading into port dragging the dead whales was the definition of a crossroad for Iceland,” said Baker. “You can’t have dead whales being the only thing seen by people who spend money on whale watching.”

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After learning of the incident from Baker firsthand, AWI, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Whale and Dolphin Conservation are calling on the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture to “immediately rescind all whaling quotas to protect the country’s reputation as a premiere nature tourism destination”, according to a statement to the press.

Numerous whale watching companies have already objected to the practice of hunting whales near whale watching areas. Icewhale (Hvalaskoðunarsamtök Íslands), an organisation of whale watching companies, points out that, according to data the Ministry of Fishing and Agriculture gave parliament, whale hunting companies make about 1 million ISK per each hunted whale. By contrast, this is about the same amount of money generated by just one whale watching trip with 125 guests. Given the number of trips made per day during whale watching season, and the dramatic increase in tourism, Icewhale says, the economic benefits of whale watching over whale hunting are even more apparent.

They also point out that, according to a study from the Marine Research Institute, the number of minke whales in the whale watching zone of Faxaflói Bay has greatly declined, with whale hunting named as one of the primary factor in this decrease. Furthermore, promises made by the institute to measure the length of time it takes a whale to die once harpooned have still not been kept.

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