Icelanders Against Whaling Release Open Letter To The Government - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelanders Against Whaling Release Open Letter To The Government

Published March 26, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Main photo by
Aleksandra Kotecka

Numerous Icelandic orgs have sent off an open letter to Parliament, objecting categorically to the government response to whale hunting.

Of special cause for concern is Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson’s decision last February to green light whale hunting until 2023. This includes endangered fin whales, which in Iceland are hunted by just one company, Hvalur hf.

The groups who signed the letter are calling upon the government to meet with them to discuss the numerous issues entailed in whale hunting, not least of all climate change, animal rights, and Iceland’s image abroad.

“With the success of whale watching in Iceland it is clear that a whale alive is worth more than a dead whale, especially when whale meat is not an Icelandic tradition, but one acquired from Norwegians a few decades ago,” the letter reads in part. “Polls have shown that less than 1% of Icelanders eat whale meat on a regular basis and 81% said they had never eaten it. It is not even possible to argue for whale meat consumption for its health benefits since it is highly concentrated in heavy metals and therefore even more difficult to sell abroad.”

The letter in full, which you can read below, was co-signed by Gaia Iceland, Jarðarvinir, Reykjavik Animal Save, Reykjavik Whale Save, Samtök grænkera á Íslandi, Sea Shepherd Iceland, SEEDS Iceland, and Stop Whaling in Iceland.

We are contacting you on behalf of several organizations that are concerned about nature and
animal preservation. We would like to express our great concern about the decision made by
Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture to renew the whaling permit for Fin
whales and Minke whales until 2023.

Concerning such a controversial topic, we do not understand how this decision could have been
taken by what it seems only one minister and based on a report so criticized by professionals,
scientists and public opinion. On January 22nd, a group of scientific experts from the Ecological
Society of Iceland posted an article to correct the report on the macroeconomic impact of whaling
published by the Department of Economics at the University of Iceland, and expressed their opinion
that the report was highly biased. They reminded at the same time the roles of whales within the
marine ecosystems, as more and more research has been showing in the world. For instance, by
diving, migrating, producing large faecal plumes and by dying in the oceans whales are improving
primary production and carbon storage. Therefore, they are highly contributing to the fight against
climate change.

Climate change is today the biggest threat to the planet and to humanity. For weeks now students
have been striking for the climate to ask governments to take immediate action. How is it possible to
deliver at the same time a hunting permit against species that help mitigating climate change?
Moreover, Iceland, having signed the Paris Agreement, launched a Climate Action Plan last year that
not only fails to include whales but more importantly fails to include marine conservation in general.
In January, some of our members attended the seminar “Defending our oceans against the climate
threat” at Grand Hotel and again neither whales nor carbon sequestration by oceans (called Blue
carbon) were mentioned. We asked the representatives present why those topics were ignored and
they replied that they were not aware of them. One of our members, Julie Lasserre, who is a marine
biologist sent an email afterwards to the Government to provide scientific references but no one has
replied.

On the other hand, we are glad to see that whale watching companies have been working with the
City Council of Reykjavik to create and even extend the whale sanctuary. But we do not understand
how it is possible for Iceland to protect whales in one area promoting the observation of them alive
in the wild, in their natural habitat, and at the same time to kill them in nearby areas? With the
success of whale watching in Iceland it is clear that a whale alive is worth more than a dead whale,
especially when whale meat is not an Icelandic tradition, but one acquired from Norwegians a few
decades ago. Polls have shown that less than 1% of Icelanders eat whale meat on a regular basis and
81% said they had never eaten it. (Source: Gallup 2017) It is not even possible to argue for whale
meat consumption for its health benefits since it is highly concentrated in heavy metals and
therefore even more difficult to sell abroad.

For all these reasons mentioned, and the obvious corruption and conflict of interest that led to this
decision being made, we have decided to protest in front of the Parliament on March 24th at 12:00.
We would also like to take this opportunity to formally ask for a meeting between representatives of
the Government and our organizations to discuss these matters, and sincerely hope you will join us
and listen to our concerns.

Best regards,Gaia Iceland, Jarðarvinir, Reykjavik Animal Save, Reykjavik Whale Save, Samtök
grænkera á Íslandi, Sea Shepherd Iceland, SEEDS Iceland, Stop Whaling in Iceland

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