After a Two-Year Break, Iceland Starts Killing Whales Again

The Nordic country eyes a 180-whale target as an improved Japanese economy prompts revived whaling efforts.

Iceland Whaling

A whaling station in Hvalfjordur fjord, Iceland. The Nordic nation has started whaling again after a two-year hiatus. (Photo: Getty Images) 

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If you think whaling belongs to a time when the 19th-century English of Moby-Dick was actually spoken in pubs across England, you’d be right, but that doesn’t mean whaling rests in peace like Herman Melville.

Despite the 1986 International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland resumed whaling off its shores in 2006. Then when Japan’s economy suffered after the earthquake and tsunami, whalers went on a two-year hiatus, since Japan is the main consumer of whale products. Now that the break is over, Iceland is at it again, setting itself a quota of about 180 fin whales, one of which, the first of the season, was taken at sea this week.

“The killing of an endangered fin whale makes it absolutely clear that years of international diplomatic efforts have failed, and that Iceland is determined to act as a rogue whaling nation, no matter the cost to this species, and to the country’s own tourism and seafood industries,” said Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute.

“Contrary to statements from Icelandic government officials, these majestic animals, second in size only to blue whales, are not ‘Icelandic’; they belong to no one country” continued Millward. “Fin whales are highly migratory, endangered, and are protected under a number of international treaties.”

“Whaling is brutal and belongs to a bygone era, not the 21st century,” said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace U.K. “It is deeply regrettable that a single Icelandic whaler backed by the government is undermining the global ban on commercial whaling, which is there to secure the future of the world’s whales”

The Natural Resource Defense Council has begun a petition calling on the Obama Administration to impose economic sanctions on Icelandic whaling companies and companies with cooperate ties to them.

“No one should profit from the senseless slaughter of there magnificent creatures,” writes Taryn Klekow, a staff attorney at NRDC.

Iceland’s controversial resumption of whaling already gathered a great deal of negative publicity earlier in the year, when AWI showed that some of the meat from this endangered species was ending up as luxury dog treats in Japan. The Japanese company marketing these treats has since withdrawn them from the market in response to the overwhelming public outcry.

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