From Iceland — Whaling "A Part Of Our Past Rather Than Our Future" Says Fisheries Minister

Whaling “A Part Of Our Past Rather Than Our Future” Says Fisheries Minister

Published November 2, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Arne Feuher/Hard to Port

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir spoke with National Geographic in a lengthy feature article about whaling in Iceland, wherein she expressed serious doubts that the practice will continue for much longer.

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Hvalur hf. is the only company in Iceland which still hunts endangered fin whales. By the end of this season, they had culled 148 whales. While Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Hvalur, has remained adamant that he will continue to hunt these animals and that there is a market for them, almost no one in Iceland eats whale meat (when they do, it’s usually the far more plentiful minke whale). Furthermore, the market for exported whale meat to its biggest customer–Japan–plummeted when Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019.

But the most damning condemnation of all has not been from environmental activists, but from the tourism industry, the backbone of the Icelandic economy.

“In the tourism industry, both in private companies and in public polls; in letters, phone calls, and in other communications, whaling has a very precise effect, and tourism companies feel it the moment whaling enters the discussion again,” Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, executive director of the Icelandic Tourist Board, told CNN last June.

“It’s saddening and frustrating to hear that this company, Hvalur, intends to resume killing these animals in Iceland,” Ásberg Jónsson, CEO of Travel Connect, added. “It is very damaging to our country’s reputation. This, in turn, has repercussions for our export and tourism industries.”

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not fin whaling will continue is decided by Svandís. Speaking to National Geographic, she said that while Hvalur’s whaling license renewal “remains to be decided,” she did add: “Historically and today, whaling has been a very small part of Iceland’s use of marine resources and exports.”

“As a ‘forward-thinking minister,’ she says she must take into account that only one company now holds a whaling permit and that Icelanders don’t have much appetite for whale meat anymore,” the article concludes. “‘The practice is a part of our past rather than our future.'”

Read the entire National Geographic article here.

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