Kristján Loftsson (above, left), the last person in Iceland to still hunt endangered fin whales, was awarded the “Freedom Award” by the Young Conservatives (SUS) yesterday, Fréttablaðið reports.
More specifically, it was his whaling company, Hvalur hf., who were given the award, but Kristján accept the award on the company’s behalf.
“Hvalur hf. was granted this award in honour of their fight for whale hunting in Iceland,” an announcement from SUS states in part. “Whale hunting is closely tied with business freedom, and Hvalur hf. has for many years fought for whale hunting to be permitted, as this is a sustainable use of resources supported by scientific research.”
The point about sustainability is a curious one, considering that Hvalur hf. has been operating at a loss since at least 2015. In that year, business newspaper Viðskiptablaðið went over the yearly financial records for Hvalur hf. While the company reported a profit of 3 billion ISK, up about half a billion from the year previous, a closer look told a different story. Viðskiptablaðið found that when operational costs—such as maintaining ships, running the whaling centre in Hvalfjörður and export costs—were subtracted from the company’s revenue from whale meat, the difference amounted to a loss of 72.5 million ISK. In point of fact, the majority of Hvalur hf.’s positive earnings came from its shares in the company Vogun hf., which is the largest shareholder of the fishing company HB Grandi. Vogun, in turn, is 99.8% owned by Hvalur hf.
Icelanders by and large do not eat whale meat. It is neither an ancient Viking tradition (industrial whaling in Iceland didn’t begin until the early 20th century) nor is it a significant part of the Icelandic diet. Opinion polls do show most Icelanders simply don’t care about whaling, although most of those who do have an opinion oppose it.
Tourists are the largest domestic market for minke whale—animals that are plentiful and not the least bit endangered. Fin whales, however, are exported to Japan.
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