From Iceland — Minister Grants Permit To Allow Whaling To Resume

Minister Grants Permit To Allow Whaling To Resume

Published June 12, 2024

Photo by
Hard to Port

Minister of Food and Agriculture Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir has granted the whaling company Hvalur ehf. a licence for hunting fin whales. The minister announced her decision following a government meeting on June 11. The permit is active for one year, allowing 128 fin whales to be hunted.

The decision follows one made in 2023 by Bjarkey’s predecessor, former fisheries minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir, to suddenly ban on whaling in 2023. In a conversation with the media, Bjarkey said that the decision does not reflect her party’s or her own opinions. “Regardless, I must follow the laws and rules and this is my conclusion now,” the minister said, continuing, “I believe we must contemplate, as a country and nation, whether we really want to continue [whaling].”

Still, a full whaling ban must be passed by Alþingi.

Disliked by both camps

The decision has been met with animosity from both sides of the issue. Animal welfare activists called Bjarkey’s decision “a lack of courage”, while CEO of Hvalur ehf. Kristján Loftsson stated in an interview with Morgunblaðið that he cannot foresee any whaling this summer, due to the permit’s lack of notice. The company’s hunting licence expired at the start of this year.

Fisheries Iceland CEO Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir said the minister’s decision was equivalent to a ban on whaling.

Animal welfare group Hvalavinir has organised a demonstration happening on the evening of June 12 to protest the minister’s decision. The demonstration is planned for 19:30 at Austurvöllur.

A long-awaited decision

In June 2023, Svandís Svarsdóttir announced a stop to the country’s whaling practises following the grim report published by Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST). The moratorium lasted until August 31 2023. Whaling commenced shortly thereafter and was met with resistance from activists, some of whom chained themselves to whaling ships.

In early January 2024, the Ombudsman for Alþingi published a review of Svandís’ whaling ban. The office concluded that Svandís’ decision was not in accordance to the law.



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