Iceland Yanks Its Whale Hunt

Suspends its annual hunt until the last 2 weeks of the season, in a likely death knell
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 10:50 AM CDT
Iceland Yanks Its Whale Hunt
In this 2003 file photo, a whale is hauled on a fishing boat after it was killed in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Iceland.   (AP Photo/Adam Butler, File)

Iceland is one of three nations left on the planet that still hunts whales commercially, and it looks like it may be bowing out of that small, controversial group on a humanitarian basis. As AFP reports, Reykjavik announced it's suspending the annual whaling season—which runs from mid-June to mid-September, and allows for the killing of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales—until the end of August. Given that decision allows for only two weeks in the hunting season, and that Iceland currently has only one whaling company left with a license expiring this year, many are seeing this as the government ringing the death knell on an industry that its food ministry has found to be in violation of its Animal Welfare Act.

AFP notes that recent video showed a fin whale being hunted for five hours, and that a government report found that killing the animals is taking too long to be considered humane. "If the government and licensees cannot guarantee welfare requirements, these activities do not have a future," said Svandis Svavarsdottir, the nation's minister of food, agriculture, and fisheries. Whale advocates are predictably cheering the move, with an exec for Humane Society International saying that, "There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea, and so we urge the minister to make this a permanent ban." The head of Sea Shepherd UK called it "a huge blow" to Japan and Norway—the only two other nations who participate in whaling.

The Independent notes that the Irish are taking a little bit of credit for the move, after PM Leo Varadkar complained about the practice to Icelandic PM Katrin Jakobsdottir last month—pragmatically noting Ireland's status as a whale sanctuary has seen its whale-watching industry grow, growing three times more profitable than its whale-hunting industry. Demand for whale meat has fallen off in recent years, while whale tourism has increased. The Independent notes that Russia may have a covert whaling industry. (Japan has caught plenty of flak over its whaling.)

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