Permits have been granted by Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries for the
hunting of 30 minke whales and nine endangered fin whales. In fact, whaling
ships have already killed their first endangered fin whale. Iceland already
hunts whales for so-called “scientific” purposes, exploiting an IWC loophole
– though the meat from the whales killed for “science” is sold commercially
Yet few Icelanders eat whale meat regularly (only 1.1% of Icelanders eat
whale meat once a week or more, Gallup poll); and there is limited, if any,
world market for the meat. Furthermore, a growing number of jobs in Iceland
depend on the increasingly popular whale-watching industry.
Iceland’s unique nature has attracted millions of tourists who
increasingly visit Iceland to see whales in their natural environment. IFAW
has worked hard in recent years to help promote Icelandic whale watching and
other forms of tourism. This dangerous move to resume whaling puts all of
that at risk.
A flagrant disregard for international agreements to protect whales
Scientists have long agreed that there’s no need to kill whales in order
to study them. What’s worse, whale meat has been proven to contain
dangerously high levels of mercury, even though it is sold in supermarkets,
restaurants and even school cafeterias in Japan.
Commercial whaling is an outmoded, unnecessary and cruel industry that
should have ended a century ago with the use of whale oil lamps. The
government of Iceland should be supporting its nation’s thriving and growing
whale watching industry rather than sinking money and political capital into
the resumption of cruel whale hunts.
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Below is my letter to the Icelandic
From: Bent Bay
Re: Please call off the hunt for whales
Despite worldwide outcry and a ban on whaling in place since 1986, Iceland, like
Japan, continues to kill whales using cruel methods, saying it's for
"scientific" purposes to see if whales are eating too much fish - even though
scientists agree that there's no need to kill whales in order to study them.
And now Iceland has declared its intention to resume a commercial whale hunt for
the first time in twenty years, including plans to kill the endangered fin
whale. I urge you to call off this hunt, which can only damage Iceland's
international reputation as well as put one of the world's most magnificent
creatures at great risk.
Commercial whaling is an out-dated and unnecessary industry that should have
ended a century ago with the use of whale oil lamps. The government of Iceland
should be supporting its nation's thriving and growing whale watching industry
rather than sinking money and its political reputation into promoting the cruel
hunting of whales.
Few Icelanders eat whale meat regularly; there is limited, if any, world market
for the meat; and there is little scientific support for the theory that whales
have a significant impact on the depletion of fish stocks. Furthermore, a
growing number of jobs in Iceland depend on the developing whale-watching
industry. In the past year, thousands of visitors from overseas have experienced
the joy and excitement of sailing off the coast of Iceland to see whales
swimming in their natural habitat.
Claims that the hunt is sustainable are not credible, since nine of the 39
whales that are to be targeted are endangered fin whales.
I urge you to rethink plans for any commercial whale hunt which can only hurt
Iceland economically. This permit should be revoked before the next whale is
killed. Most Icelanders are environmentally conscious, and in favor of using
marine resources in a way that preserves them for future generations. This hunt
is about catering to special interests, not the needs of Icelandic citizens.
This is the letter to me from the Ambassdor of Iceland.
Received november 7. 2006
Mr. Bent Bay
Thank you for your correspondence concerning Iceland?s
I wish to assure you that Iceland has no intention of catching any of
the endangered species of whales, killed on a large scale by other whaling
nations in the past. Iceland?s resumption of sustainable whaling only
involves abundant stocks and is linked to Iceland?s overall policy of
sustainable utilisation of marine resources.
Several countries catch whales, most of them on a much bigger scale
than Iceland. The biggest whaling countries among the members of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) are the United States, Russia,
Norway, Japan and Greenland. The whaling operations practiced by all those
countries, as well as Iceland, are sustainable and legal and in accordance
with the rules of the IWC.
Iceland fully appreciates the need for careful conservation of marine
resources. Our economy depends on those resources as marine products
constitute around 60% of Iceland?s revenue from exported goods and almost
40% of all Icelandic exported goods and services. Disruption of the
ecological balance in Icelandic waters due to overfishing or other reasons
could have catastrophic consequences for the livelihood of Icelanders.
As you may know, Iceland was among the first countries in the world
to extend its fishery limits to 200 nautical miles in the year 1975, in
order to put an end to the uncontrolled fishing around Iceland by trawlers
from other countries. Since then Iceland has taken great care in
maintaining balanced and sustainable fishing in Icelandic waters by
enforcing an effective management system for various fish species including
cod, herring and capelin.
Iceland takes pride in its pioneering work in this field, which has
been emulated by many countries in the world wishing to avoid unsustainable
practices. The annual catch quotas for fishing and whaling are based on
recommendations by scientists, who regularly monitor the status of the
stocks, thus ensuring that the activity is sustainable.
For a number of years, Iceland has acknowledged the need for
scientific research on whales to gain a better understanding of the
interaction between the different whale stocks and other marine species and
the role of whales in the marine ecosystem. Therefore, Iceland began
implementing a research plan on minke whales in 2003. So far, 161 minke
whales have been taken and we look forward to the completion of the
research plan in 2007 when the sample size of 200 minke whales has been
obtained. Whaling quotas will take into account the number of whales that
are taken in the implementation of the research plan, ensuring that the
total number remains well below sustainable levels.
There are many different whale species and stocks in the world's
oceans. Some are in a poor state and in need of protection. However, many
whale populations are far from being threatened or endangered. The total
stock size of Central North-Atlantic minke whales, for example, is close to
70,000 animals. Of those, around 43,600 live in Icelandic coastal waters.
Fin whales in the Central North Atlantic number around 25,800 animals. Both
estimates have been agreed by consensus by the Scientific Committees of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the North-Atlantic Marine Mammal
Iceland?s decision to resume sustainable whaling involves takes of 30
minke whales and nine fin whales, during the current fishing year which
ends on 31 August 2007. This will bring the total catches of minke whales
in Icelandic waters during this fishing year to 69, including the minke
whales taken in completing the research plan. These takes equal less than
0.2% of the number of minke whales in Icelandic coastal waters, an even
smaller fraction of the total stock, and less than 0.04% of fin whales in
the Central North Atlantic. Both are considered to be close to
pre-exploitation levels and estimated sustainable annual catch levels are
200 and 400 fin and minke whales respectively. As the catch limits now
issued are much lower, the catches will not have a significant impact on
whale stocks. A responsible management system will ensure that the catch
quotas set will not be exceeded. The catches are clearly sustainable and
therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development.
Iceland?s resumption of sustainable whaling is legal under
international law. At the time of the re-entry of Iceland into the IWC,
Iceland made a reservation with respect to the so-called moratorium on
commercial whaling. As a part of that reservation, Iceland committed itself
not to authorise commercial whaling before 2006 and thereafter not to
authorise such whaling while progress was being made in negotiating the
IWC?s Revised Management Scheme (RMS), a management framework for
At the IWC?s Annual Meeting in 2005, Iceland went on record
expressing its regret that no progress was being made in the RMS
discussions. At this year?s IWC Annual Meeting, Iceland?s judgement of the
situation was reconfirmed as the IWC generally agreed that talks on an RMS
had reached an impasse. As a result, Iceland?s reservation has taken
effect. Therefore, Iceland is no longer bound by the so-called moratorium
on commercial whaling. In this respect, Iceland is in the same position as
other IWC members that are not bound by the moratorium.
Iceland was one of the first countries in the world to realize the
importance of a conservation approach to whaling. As signs of
overexploitation of whales emerged early in the last century, Iceland
declared a ban on whaling for large whales around Iceland in 1915. Whaling
was not resumed until 1948, except for limited catches 1935-1939. Strict
rules and limitations were applied to whaling in Iceland from 1948 to 1985
when all commercial whaling was halted again following a decision by the
Iceland has been a leading advocate for international cooperation in
ensuring sustainable use of living marine resources, including whales. This
has been the position taken by Iceland within the IWC, based on the
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling from 1946. The
stated role of the IWC, according to its founding Convention, is to
?provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible
the orderly development of the whaling industry?.
I hope that this information will be useful to you in understanding
Iceland?s position on sustainable whaling. You may rest assured, that the
desire to ensure the conservation of the whale stocks around Iceland and
elsewhere is fully shared by the Icelandic Government.
Ambassdor of Iceland
For information on the governance of Iceland?s living marine
resources on the web, please refer to,
www.fisheries.is Forinformation on
various scientific research projects on whales and other marine mammals in
the North Atlantic please refer to the web site of the Marine Research
Institute: www.hafro.is as well as the
North Atlantic Mammal Commission: www.nammco.noJanuary 16 2007
Last year at this time, a northern bottlenose whale that strayed into the
River Thames died despite a remarkable rescue effort involving IFAW staff.
The media coverage in central London was unprecedented and an estimated 20
million people watched the rescue efforts around the world.
But despite such international exposure, the situation for the world’s
whales is even worse then it was the day this unexpected visitor entered our
hearts a year ago.
The threat to whales from hunting is extremely urgent. Many whale species
have yet to recover from previous commercial whaling, and also face numerous
other threats including pollution, ocean noise and ship strikes.
Without your help, Japanese whalers will kill almost 1,000 whales this
year, harpooning them and dragging them onto their factory ships to be processed
for meat that virtually no one eats.