Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent bycatch
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...

It’s Time To Breach The Snake River Dams

The Snake River dams were controversial even before they were built.  While they were still...
Save the whale. Save the world.

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins, and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Nat Geo for Disney+ Luis Lamar

Five Facts About Orcas

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most recognizable and popular species...
Alexi Archer cropped

Meet the 2022 Interns: Alexi Archer

I am thrilled to welcome Alexi to WDC as the newest member of our Marine...
Saya

Meet the 2022 Interns: Saya Butani

I'm happy to welcome the newest member of the WDC team, Saya Butani, who is...
Block Island wind credit: Regina Asutis-Silvia

Offshore Wind: Don’t Blow It

Recently, new areas were added to the growing list of potential sites for offshore wind...
Sierra

Meet the 2022 Interns: Sierra Osborne

I'm delighted to introduce WDC's Conservation Education intern for Summer 2022, Sierra Osborne! Without hesitation,...

Whaling and Whale Watching in Iceland

Since mid-June, Iceland has slaughtered at least 17 endangered fin whales, the same whales that support a thriving whale watching industry.  The hunt is the first for two years and, despite the international ban on commercial whaling, Iceland has set itself a quota of 184 fin whales, potentially to be killed over the next few months. Much of the whale meat within Iceland is eaten by curious tourists rather than locals. Tourists mistakenly believe that whale meat is just another ‘traditional’ Icelandic dish but instead, are helping to keep this cruel industry alive. Recently WDC helped exposed the use of fin whale oil as fuel for the whaling vessels and that meat from these rare creatures was being fed to dogs in japan. Jake Levenson, a friend to WDC, witnessed this needless slaughter first hand, while on board a whale watching vessel in Iceland.  His thoughts of this account are below.  ~Regina Asmutis-Silvia

Sadly, Iceland is one of the few remaining countries that still engage in commercial whaling.    I’m constantly amazed at the ability of my Icelandic friends to operate a successful business in an environment where the very subject on which their business depends is being actively hunted.  The government seems to think Whale Watching and Whaling can coexist by drawing an arbitrary line in the water.  The problem is that whales, along with every other marine organism pay no attention to arbitrary borders us humans draw on maps, and thinking that separating whaling and whale watching will protect either enterprise is misguided.   

While out on a trip this past week, I witnessed two fin whales being dragged back for processing.  Fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet, may live more than 150 years and migrate thousands of miles, are being indiscriminately hunted in Iceland by just one company.  I’ve seen videos, read about and unfortunately been around my fair share of dead whales that have died as a result of bycatch, but this was my first time ever witnessing a whale that was intentionally killed.  It was a humbling experience and one that I felt awkward and didn’t know what I should do about the situation.  The guide on board that trip, a young guy named Ívar, sprung into action explaining how most Icelandic people don’t support whaling, and that nearly half the whale meat sold is Iceland is consumed by tourists.   He explained that if you want to really try something genuinely Icelandic try some waffles and rhubarb, not whale.  The tourists looked at each other, they didn’t realize that sampling some free whale meat in a restaurant could make a difference, ‘but it does, it’s used to justify more killing’ explained Ívar.   I was impressed by his ability to handle a situation that many would find overwhelming. He did so with tact, and with such professionalism in a situation few outside of Iceland could ever imagine being in. 

Iceland is a beautiful place to visit and if you do, I highly recommend going whale watching and supporting a tourism industry that’s working to actively protect whales.  Boycotting Iceland isn’t the answer; if you simply ignore the problem you don’t have a voice in the debate.  Come to Iceland, and make your voice heard in the businesses you patronize.

Jake Levenson is a conservation biologist and research coordinator for Elding Whale Watch, Iceland’s largest whale watching company.  Visit Elding.is for more information.