Cancelled hunt could save 154 Icelandic fin whales this summer

I couldn’t be more thrilled at today’s announcement by Icelandic fin whaler, Kristjan Loftsson, that he won’t be slaughtering fin whales off Iceland this summer at least.

Loftsson’s whaling company, Hvalur hf, has killed 706 fin whales since Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, in defiance of a global ban on commercial whaling and despite the fin whale – the second largest animal on the planet - being listed as Endangered by the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

But, hopefully, the slaughter is coming to an end. Loftsson cites problems exporting his meat to his only market, Japan, and also denounces Japanese whale meat analysis methods, claiming “If we had known what was in store in Japan, we would never have started again”.

In recent years, we’ve exposed the lengths Kristján Loftsson has gone to ship his whale meat – when protests by WDC and others made him persona non grata for his preferred route via EU ports such as Rotterdam and Hamburg, forcing him to cast around for alternative routes. In 2014, he shipped his meat the length of Canada by train, and only weeks later, in March that year, he sent a shipment of around 2,000 tonnes aboard the Alma snaking down the west coast of Africa and round the Cape of Good Hope Last June, increasingly desperate, he chartered the Winter Bay, which took a further 1,800 tonnes ‘over the top’ through Russia’s Northeast Passage, a route that can be treacherous.

We’ve also of course, exposed links between Hvalur and Icelandic seafood giant, HB Grandi, since Grandi profits have long propped up Loftsson’s ‘hobby whaling’ which has never been particularly profitable.

Last year, Hvalur killed a record 155 fin whales (exceeding Iceland’s self-appointed quota by one whale, based on a permitted ‘carry-over’’ from the 2014 hunt, which itself saw 137 fin whales slaughtered). So, based on Hvalur’s willingness last year to fully exploit their quota, we can say that at the very least, up to 154 fin whale lives will be saved this year.

But the million dollar question, of course, is whether Loftsson will be able to resume his whaling in 2017? Hvalur has, of course, stopped fin whaling twice in the past, once in 1989, resuming in 2006, and again in 2011 (due to market difficulties after the Japanese tsunami), only to resume in 2013 onwards.

There currently seem to be several impediments: Loftsson cites endless export difficulties and his dispute with Japan over their methods of analysing whale meat as the main reasons for his decision. He grumbles “if the Japanese do not take up modern research methods, as are used here, so that similar methods are used in both countries, then Hvalur can no longer continue whaling for the Japanese market. Japan is our major market, so therefore [whaling] would automatically come to an end.”

We know that at least one fin whale meat shipment was returned to Iceland in recent years after failing Japanese Ministry of Health testing (along with several shipments of Norwegian minke whale meat).  Norway and Iceland have certainly been pushing hard at a diplomatic level for Japan to change its testing methods and if Japan concedes, that would certainly remove one current obstacle to Loftsson resuming his activities.

However, there are others of course, not least declining interest and confidence in Icelandic fin whale meat amongst Japanese consumers.

Whale meat consumption is declining in Japan and whilst in the past, Japanese consumers may have expressed a preference for fin whale meat, in recent years, they have turned up their nose at Mr Loftsson’s imports, complaining of poor quality

Sluggish demand has led to price cuts and fin whale meat being added to frozen stockpiles (or, until the practice was exposed by WDC and others, turned into dog treats).  Some reports suggest that as much as half the whale meat held in Japan is Icelandic.

Profit is another major variable of course, and increasing costs of transportation from Iceland to Japan via these ridiculously circuitous routes, coupled with price cuts and consumer disinterest within Japan, must be worrying for a canny businessman such as Loftsson.

Loftsson has consistently brave-faced the situation, insisting repeatedly that his whaling is economically viable, yet Hvalur’s financial statements show a loss of around 1 billion Krona in 2014 (roughly £5.36 million/$7.5 million USD). 

And there’s almost certainly hidden agendas within Japan, not least that by cutting ties to Loftsson’s ‘controversial’ fin whale meat, Japan is hoping to increase its chances of convincing delegates at this year’s meeting of the IWC (International Whaling Commission) that they really do need their requested ‘small type coastal whaling’ quota now.

One thing is for sure, whilst we should welcome the news of no fin whale hunt off Iceland this summer – but we also need to remember that minke whales are still being killed in those waters, and to remain on our toes, as experience has taught us that it is unwise to second-guess Mr Loftsson’s next move.

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Comments

Please stop killing the whales.

protect whales, don't kill them.

You bravely sorted the bankers out and the world respected you all for that. I am sure you will now cancel Whaling and again be seen by the world as a true compassionate and strong country.

Whale watching could bring in tourists and revenue to your beautiful country. With love

You bravely sorted the bankers out and the world respected you all for that. I am sure you will now cancel Whaling and again be seen by the world as a true compassionate and strong country.

Whale watching could bring in tourists and revenue to your beautiful country. With love

You bravely sorted the bankers out and the world respected you all for that. I am sure you will now cancel Whaling and again be seen by the world as a true compassionate and strong country.

Whale watching could bring in tourists and revenue to your beautiful country. With love

You bravely sorted the bankers out and the world respected you all for that. I am sure you will now cancel Whaling and again be seen by the world as a true compassionate and strong country.

Whale watching could bring in tourists and revenue to your beautiful country. With love

Good news about Iceland. However Norway kills around 600 minke whales every year. However the EU trades with Norway and I have never heard them to put pressure on them to stop whaling, so it is optimistic to think the EU will use its powers to stop Japan with its whaling. More to the point the EU should take Japan and Norway to the ICJ at the Hague for their ecological crimes.

This is unacceptable in the 21 St century
They already have enough whale meat stored and lying about why they want is so terrible. What makes the human race think it had the right to do this

This barbarism must be stopped by any means!

Thank goodness we have stopped killing the whales .as we need them , how ever large they are for our children and their children's children to see and take good care of them also thank you Josephine X

Have a heart, protect the whales. Stop kiiling fhem.

It would certainly be a great and good news for all who care for the nature, wildlife and for whom killing of whales has always been unnecessary and very brutal massacre of magnificent and sensitive animals who need protection. Also important is that people don't overfish the waters where whales live and need food. I hope Iceland will make a good decision and end the brutal killings of whales finally. it will give lots of goodwill to the country. And more tourists for the country. Arrange whalewatch tours instead of horrible massacres.

yes please save the whales and the dolphins

End this slaughter now! It's time to realize, that we are destroying our world.
I wish one day animals would be able to do the same to us human. Let's see what you will say then.

Stop slaughtering these gentle beasts, we'll hunt YOU to the end of the earth until you do.

Whale meat must be an acquired taste!!? During the last war in Europe, when meat was VERY scarce, our Mother bought some whale meat to help out our rations.. Both my sister and I took one bite and spate it out!!!Horrible!!!! In any case there are plenty of other kinds of fish still on the market.. THERE IS ON THE SLIGHTEST NEED TO HUNT THESE GREAT AND UNIQUE CREATCURES TO EXTINCTION!! IT IS A CRUEL AND UN-NECCESSARY OCCUPATION.. I HAVE NEVER BOUGHT A JAPANESE CAR FOR THIS REASON!! AND I INFORM THE OWNERS OF THOSE WHO DRIVE THEM WHEN EVER POSSIBLE!!!
THERE IS SO MANY OTHER GOOD THINGS TO EAT !!!PLEASE LEAVE THE WHALES ALONE !!!!

Please stop the killing of these gentle animals that are so needed to keep the oceans healthy
Linda

While Japan is in many respects a very modern and forward looking nation, it demonstrates that it is still very much rooted in the barbaric middle ages in it's views of not only Whales, but the environment as a whole.

Whales and dolphins are the most magnificent and highly intelligent creatures of the sea. The slaughtering must stop now before they become extinct. The people who kill them and buy them are evil and greedy.

Please stop killing these magnificent creatures

Please stop killing these beautiful creatures. It is wrong and a horrible act to follow. We need these creatures in our oceans and they deserve as much freedom and the right to survive as we do.

Please, in the name of humanity, stop this bloody business.

Get people to Whale Watch and bring millions to your country not kill them, as I have said before to the Japanese hunters me and all my family, friends and people I meet daily through work - I ask them not to visit Iceland or Japan on holiday in protest to their continued Whaling! Stop this disgraceful act now because we wont stop until you do.

Human 'Kind',so called have to stop this barbaric acts,there is so much more that people can do for these defenceless creature,instead of turning a blind eye.
We so called the intelligent species have to really look at what is going on in the world,our actions,brutal,bloody,shameful actions cannot continue anymore.Stop the cruelty.I love Japan,I really want to go and visit,but this is what is stopping from going.

Please do not kill these wonderful amazing creatures, please let them live.

Let these beautiful animals live and be free, it is cruel to kill them, show our children that we are respectful of creatures.

Please stop killing whales.In the 21st century you do not need to kill them. Please share their beauty with the world and allow them to live. Please be responsible and show the world that your nation can care and support wildlife and not destroy it. These animals are intelligent they deserve the right to live.