WASHINGTON, July 27, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The hunting of minke whales has ended in Iceland. Media sources reported today that cost and poor profits has made whaling no longer economically viable, thus leading to the decision to close the local whaling industry.
"This is very good news for minke whales and for Iceland," said Sigursteinn Masson, Iceland Representative for IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "Ending minke whaling will have a very positive impact on the far more economically viable industry of commercial whale watching."
Despite a self-allocated quota of 262 whales proposed to be hunted, only six minke whales were caught in June and none in July, typically the peak hunting month. It is the lowest number of whales hunted in Iceland since the recommencement of commercial whaling in 2003. Last summer a total of 17 minke whales were harpooned, compared to 46 in 2016.
According to Gunnar Jonsson, spokesperson for Iceland's primary minke whaling company IP Fisheries, the enlargement of the whale sanctuary in Faxafloi Bay near the capital of Reykjavik has made operations for whalers very difficult. Historically, up to 85 per cent of minke whales hunted in Iceland have been harpooned in what is now a protected area. Having to travel farther offshore in search of whales is time-consuming and significantly more expensive.
This past December, former Minister of Fisheries Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir enlarged the whale sanctuary in Faxafloi Bay after years of campaigning by IFAW, Icewhale (The Association of Whale Watching Operators) and SAF (National Organization of Tourism Operators).
Sigursteinn Masson continues, "Despite this very good news, we still have work to do in Iceland and other whaling countries. This year minke whale meat was imported from Norway, a country which continues to hunt whales. Although Icelandic whalers have stopped their operations, they are considering importing whale meat from Norway. IFAW will continue to campaign against whaling which is unnecessary, cruel, and rapidly becoming socially unpopular. IFAW's successful campaign against minke whaling in Iceland was done with understanding and respect for both Iceland and its people, and through the building of alliances within the country that focus on what is best for Iceland and for whales."
Although minke whale meat is sold in Iceland, curious tourists eat the majority of it. According to a recent Gallup poll commissioned by IFAW, only 1% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly and 82% claim never to have eaten it at all. In conjunction with Icelandic whale watching coalition Icewhale, IFAW has also been working closely with Icelandic politicians and the general public, while simultaneously educating tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat consumption through its Meet Us Don't Eat Us campaign launched in 2011. Back in 2009, the percentage of tourists who claimed to have sampled whale meat in Iceland was 40 percent. Since the inception of Meet Us Don't Eat Us, this figure has been reduced dramatically down to 11.4 percent, according to IFAW surveys from 2017. Over half of the restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have signed up to be Whale Friendly with a pledge not to serve whale meat, and fewer than 10 percent of restaurants in the area now include whale meat on their menus.
The Meet Us Don't Eat Us campaign also promotes whale watching over whale hunting. The touristic practice generates an estimated $26M annually in revenues for the local economy and has hosted an estimated 350,000 whale watchers per year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.
To support IFAW's efforts to protect whales in Iceland or find out more about Meet Us Don't Eat Us visit www.ifaw.is
Founded in 1969, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit organisation that protects animals and the places they call home. With offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40, we rescue, rehabilitate and release animals into secure landscapes around the world. In collaboration with both governments and local communities, our experienced campaigners, legal and political experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare