Controversial Report Says Whaling Has No Effect On Iceland Tourist Industry - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Controversial Report Says Whaling Has No Effect On Iceland Tourist Industry

Published January 18, 2019

A new report from the Institute of Economic Studies was released on Wednesday and states the Iceland’s whaling operations have absolutely no effects on the tourist industry in Iceland. The report was made public at the request of Fisheries Minister Kristján Þór Júlíusson, who is currently evaluating the state of hunting whales as the existing five-year agreement is up for review.

Preservationist or eco-terrorist?

The report has been heavily criticized. Among its opponents is Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, chair of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association. She notes that the author of the report stated that he consulted with the whale watching community, but neither Rannveig nor any other member of the association was contacted.

She also points out that in the report groups put eco-terrorism in the same category as nature conservation associations. Also, the report questions if it’s time to have stricter rules about whale watching so the ships don’t affect the numbers of whales in the area—an objectively odd perspective in a report that endorses hunting whales.

The benefit of the doubt

Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, says  the tourist industry should have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the extremely controversial whaling industry.

He points out that whale watching revenue for the year of 2017 was 3,2 billion ISK (about US$26 million), while whaling’s revenue was about 1,7 billion ISK (around US$16 million). Furthermore, he notes that there has been no research on the effects of whaling on the tourism industry, so one could hypothesize that tourists visit Iceland in spite of the country’s whaling operations.

Million tonnes

Icelandic writer and conservationist Andri Snær Magnason commented on Facebook that the report is closer fantasy than reality.

“It’s an intriguing view of an economist that thinks the earth is an excel-sheet,“ he said. He points out that there are unrealistic idea in the report, like if it would be 40% reduction of finback in Iceland, like it says in the report, you would have to slaughter 16.000 finbacks. That means million tons of whale meat.

There are few markets left for whale meat, with Japan being the largest, but even that market is not particularly lucrative for Iceland, as it’s nearly impossible to ship the meat to Japan due to the international moratorium on commercial whaling.

Not Icelanders, just one man

“You could imagine how many nations would be ready to do business with Iceland, after we have hunted 10 thousand whales,” said Andri Snær. “And after the 15 thousand whales, they would probably just take our territorial waters away from us.“

Andri Snær also points out that it is odd that the report’s author consistently refers to Icelanders in plural, when there is only one man that has been whaling in Iceland in the past decade: Kristján Loftsson, the owner of Hvalur hf. Wonders Andri Snær: “Why don’t we just say his name?”

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