In Iceland whaling will soon be history. The Scandinavian country has decided not to extend its whaling quota, which expires in 2024. This is a market that is running out due to low demand. An economic decision that is nevertheless excellent news for biodiversity and climate protection.
Iceland, Norway and Japan are the last three countries in the world where whaling is allowed. Soon they will be only two. On Friday, February 4, 2022, the Icelandic government announced an end to this practice in 2024, when current catch quotas expire, reports Release. “Unless otherwise stated, there is little reason to allow whaling from 2024”said Fisheries Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir, a member of Iceland’s ruling left-wing Green Party. “There is little evidence that there is an economic benefit to engaging in this activity”she says in a column for the daily newspaper Morgunbladid.
Increased competition from Japan
This historic decision is primarily economic. In the period 2019-2023, Iceland’s fishing quotas allow 209 catches each year for the fin whale, the second largest marine mammal after the blue whale, and 217 for the minke whale (also known as minke whale). But in the past three summer seasons, only one animal has been harpooned in Icelandic waters: a minke whale, in 2021. The two main licensed businesses have already closed in the past three years, it adds. Release. One of them, IP-Útgerd, even announced in the spring of 2020 that it would put an end to the catches.
This situation is mainly due to increased competition from Japan. After three decades of hiatus, the Asian country did indeed resume commercial whaling in 2019: enough to meet its own demand and become the market leader in cetaceans. In addition, the entry into force in Iceland of a coastal zone where fishing is prohibited has also complicated the situation of fishermen, who are forced to go further offshore to hunt whales.
All these reasons, mainly economic ones, have led Iceland to end commercial whaling. This practice was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, but Iceland, which had opposed this moratorium, resumed it in 2003. In 2018, the last summer of whaling in Icelandic waters, 146 fin whales and six minke whales harpooned .
The Icelandic government’s recent decision has not surprisingly been praised by environmental groups. “This is great news for Iceland, the whales that inhabit its waters and the world-renowned whale watching industry”said Sharon Livermore, director of Marine Conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), quoted by Release. The island of 370,000 inhabitants is indeed seeing the development of the whale watching sector for tourists, who are more interested in live cetaceans.
Blue whale hunting, also banned by the International Whaling Commission, is also banned in Iceland. Now let’s hope that Japan and Norway follow the path of the North Atlantic island and in turn stop fishing for these giants of the seas.