Ships from Hvalur hf., Iceland’s only fin whaling company, are set to depart from Reykjavík Harbour today, marking the start of their first whaling season in four years.
This year’s whaling quota allows for up to 193 longliners, reports Vísir. Longlining is a commercial fishing technique where hooks are attached at regular intervals to a long main line extending from the vessel.
Whales haven’t been caught in Iceland since the autumn of 2018. Hvalur hf. did not receive its whaling license in time to finish repairing boats for the summer 2019 season, as reported. Minke whales also were not hunted that summer, making that the first season Iceland went without a hunt since 2003.
As reported, Hvalur hf. did not operate in 2020 either because of issues with testing and chemical analysis, as well as social distancing making it difficult to process the meat in Iceland. Following this, Hvalur CEO Kristján Loftsson was quoted saying the company might have to close after several high-profile investors sought to be bought out.
Hvalur hf. can hunt whales through 2023. Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir said she will consider not issuing commercial whaling licenses from 2024 onwards because there is little demand for whaling products and the industry offers minimal benefit to Iceland’s economy.
In fact, whaling could harm Iceland’s tourism industry. Foreign media often covers whaling in a negative light. Additionally, data from Iceland’s Tourist Board shows 364,000 tourists embarked on whale watching expeditions in 2019 alone. With an 18.3% market share in the tourism industry, whale watching is gaining popularity and likely will soon push whaling from the forefront.
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