From Iceland — No Whaling Will Happen This Summer

No Whaling Will Happen This Summer

Published June 20, 2023

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir has announced her decision to stop Iceland’s hunt for fin whales this summer, Vísir reports. The commercial whaling season was scheduled to get underway June 21, despite ongoing public protest against the practice.

The decision was made in light of a report from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) submitted to the minister’s office on June 19. A panel of animal welfare professionals was tasked by MAST to assess whether Iceland’s commercial whaling could meets the objectives of the law on animal welfare. It concluded that the methods employed in hunting large whales do not comply with the law.

The hunt could instead begin on September 1, depending on the results of further investigation into whether it is possible to ensure that the hunting is carried out in accordance with the provisions of the law on animal welfare.

The minister’s decision

Speaking with Bylgjan radio station, Svandís questioned whether commercial whaling has a future in Iceland.

“I have made the decision to temporarily stop whaling in light of the unequivocal opinion of the professional council on animal welfare,” she said on an afternoon broadcast Tuesday. “The conditions of the law on animal welfare are inescapable in my mind, if the government and license holders cannot guarantee welfare requirements, this activity has no future.”

Months of protest

Svandís said in May there was no legal basis for revoking the fishing permit of Hvalur hf. in the wake of a damning report on the practices of the company — the only one engaging in whaling in Iceland — not adhering to laws on animal welfare.

MAST released a report May 8 that found, in part, that, of the 148 whales killed in the 2022 season, 73% were female, 11 were pregnant and one was lactating. Surveillance footage from aboard Hvalur’s whaling vessels captured video footage of 58 deaths.

Though Hvalur has long maintained that the whales die immediately after being harpooned, the report found that the median time it took for the whales to die was 11.5 minutes, with some struggling for life for more than two hours. A total of 36 whales (of those filmed) needed to be shot more than once, with five shot three times and four shot five times. One whale was chased for more than five hours with a harpoon in its back (it eventually got away, likely fatally injured).

Svandís was presented June 8 with a petition signed by 360.000 individuals calling for the end of whaling in Iceland. The petition referenced “the horrific treatment of animals” and demanded an immediate revocation of Hvalur hf.’s whaling licence.

Whaling is not a traditional practice in Iceland. Not only is Hvalur hf. the one and only company in Iceland engaging in commercial whaling and it does so at a loss.

So Hvalur owner Kristján Loftsson is either comically evil and just really loves killing, or he craves an elaborate cover for his kink of wearing hair nets pulled down to his eyelids. Wear those hair nets with pride, Kristján. So long as you’re not murdering whales, we won’t judge.

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