Iceland is one of the few countries that continues to practice commercial whaling. However, whaling could be banned by 2024, according to a recent statement by the Minister of Fisheries.
Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of Iceland said on Friday that whaling is no longer economically viable. “Why should Iceland take the risk of keeping up whaling, which has not brought any economic gain, in order to sell a product for which there is hardly any demand?” says Svandís.
Demand for Icelandic whale meat has plummeted after Japan, the main market for whale meat, resumed commercial whaling in 2019, after a three-year hiatus. COVID-19 safety measures have also contributed to decreased demand, making whale meat processing plants less efficient and export more difficult.
Iceland’s current quotas allow for the hunting of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales annually. According to Svandís, the fact that only one whale had been killed in the past three years proves that the country’s economic benefit from commercial whale hunting is unlikely.
As stated in a 2018 MMR poll, opinions on whether Iceland should continue whaling are divided: with 34% of surveyed Icelanders being in favor of the trade, 34% being against it and almost a third (31%) being neither in favor nor against it. Respondents living in rural areas were more in favor of whaling (42%) than those in the greater Reykjavík area (30%).
In 2022, Iceland along with Norway and Japan remain the only countries to permit commercial whaling. However, other whale-related activities have been gaining popularity in recent years. With an 18.3% market share of the tourism industry, whale-watching is steadily becoming popular in Iceland. The data report a total of 364,000 tourists who went on one of the many available whale-watching tours in 2019 alone.
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