Iceland's Fishing Minister Green Lights Whale Hunting To 2023 - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Fishing Minister Green Lights Whale Hunting To 2023

Published February 20, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Arne Feuher

Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson has approved the hunting of fin whales and minke whales until 2023, but not without criticism.

According to a statement from the Minister on the decision, he argues that “it is clear that the two species of whale hunted in Iceland, minke whales and fin whales, are in good shape and the hunting that has taken place over the past decades has had no significant negative effects on the stocks.”

This decision was based in part on a new report on whaling whose methodology and conclusions have both been questioned. As a point of interest, the main author of this report, Dr. Oddgeir Á. Ottesen, was an alternate MP for the Independence Party, which has always been decidedly pro-whaling, or at least tolerant of whale hunting. The Minister hails from this same party.

As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Minister’s decision to allow whaling into 2023 has also been criticised.

Árni Finnsson, the director of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, told Vísir that the practice of whaling directly contradicts Iceland’s supposed support for environmental issues.

“To support Iceland’s position in the international community in environmental matters, it is very necessary to stop this killing of whales, and unfortunately Kristján Þór Júlíusson has positioned himself against defending the seas,” Árni says, pointing out that whaling operates at a financial loss as well.

As reported in 2015, business newspaper Viðskiptablaðið went over the yearly financial records for Hvalur hf., Iceland’s sole fin whaling company. 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.

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