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UK and German citizens overwhelmingly reject Iceland’s commercial whaling

UK and German citizens overwhelmingly reject Iceland’s commercial whaling

A new poll commissioned by leading anti-whaling organisations, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Humane Society International (HSI), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), OceanCare, Pro Wildlife, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), indicates overwhelming public opposition in Germany and the UK to Iceland’s resumption of commercial whaling, with nine out of ten people in both countries stating they disagree with Iceland’s decision to resume whaling.

In 1982, with whale populations decimated by whaling, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted for a ban on the commercial hunting of whales, which came into effect in 1986. Despite this, Iceland resumed whaling in 2003, initially targeting minke whales as part of a “scientific” hunt.  In 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling for both minkes and endangered fin whales.

The 2014 hunt is currently underway, and to date, more than 100 fin and 22 minke whales have been killed this year, bringing the number of whales killed by Iceland to more than 1,000 since 2003. Iceland has also exported thousands of tonnes of whale products, almost exclusively to Japan, in defiance of a ban on international trade in whale products imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The results of the poll, conducted for the groups by ORC International in late July 2014, are being released prior to the 2014 annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to be held in Portorož, Slovenia, from 15th to 18th September. 

Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said, “We urge IWC member countries to denounce Iceland’s cruel whaling industry, and to use all diplomatic tools at their disposal to ensure that Iceland abides by both the commercial whaling moratorium and the CITES ban on trade in whale products. As the poll results clearly show, the public will support efforts to bring an end to Iceland’s undermining of international conservation measures for whales.”

Survey participants were also queried as to their concerns related to seafood purchases from Icelandic fishing companies linked to whaling.  More than four out of five people responded that they would be unlikely to purchase seafood products from these companies, including more than half of the respondents who declared themselves very unlikely to do so.  Females were even more likely than males in both countries not to buy from such companies.

“Nearly 90 per cent of females surveyed in the UK and Germany declared themselves unlikely to buy seafood from companies linked to whaling.  As women tend to do most of the food purchasing for their households, this statistic should set alarm bells ringing at Iceland’s leading fisheries company, HB Grandi, which is closely linked with fin whaling, especially as the company only recently had to report a 34 per cent decline in profits compared to 2013”, commented Chris Butler-Stroud, Chief Executive Officer at Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).

In contrast to the liability that whaling represents to Iceland’s image, responsible whale watch tourism provides definite value to the local economy. IceWhale, the Icelandic Association of Whale Watchers, has estimated that in 2013 roughly 201,000 people took a whale watch trip in Icelandic waters, providing significant direct revenues. 

According to the ORC survey, at least 3 out of 5 adults in the UK and at least 7 out of 10 adults in Germany would be likely to take a whale-watching tour if they travelled to Iceland. However, over 85 per cent indicated that they would be unlikely to choose to eat or shop at Icelandic restaurants and supermarkets that sell whale meat.

Kitty Block, J.D., Vice President of the Humane Society International (HSI) said, “Whaling has no place in a modern world, and Iceland is out of step with the majority of nations that want to see whales fully protected. It persistently thwarts the rule of international law and undermines decisions made by international treaty bodies to protect whales from commercial slaughter and international trade.  Whales are long-lived, slow to reproduce and many populations are still recovering from the relentless hunting of previous centuries. Given all these matters, it is unconscionable that Iceland continues to kill these animals just to sell their meat to trendy restaurants and stores.”

Media contacts:

AWI: Susan Millward [email protected] +1 202 640 9606

EIA: Paul Newman [email protected] +44 (0)207 3547960 

HSI: Raul Arce-Contreras, [email protected], +1 301-721-6440

IFAW: Clare Sterling [email protected] +44 (0)20 7587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717

OceanCare: Sigrid Lueber [email protected] +41-44-7806688 mobile +41-79-4752687

Pro Wildlife: Dr. Sandra Altherr [email protected]; +49 89 81299 509

WDC: Danny Groves [email protected] +44 (0) 1249 449 534 or Vanessa Williams-Grey [email protected] +44 (0)7931 530814

Photos and interviews available upon request


1. The 2014 Whaling Study was conducted by ORC International in the UK and Germany. An online survey was conducted July 25-30, 2014 among an Internet representative UK sample of 1,001 adults, 18 years and older, comprising 500 men and 501 women aged 18 years and older. In Germany, the online survey was conducted at the same time, among an Internet representative sample of 1,000 adults, comprising 501 men and 499 women aged 18 years and older.  Completed interviews in both cases were weighted by three variables: age, sex and geographic region so as to ensure reliable and representative samples of both countries. Full results from the survey can be found at


2. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling was approved in 1982 and took effect in 1986.  Iceland, a major commercial whaling nation, left the IWC in 1991 in protest over the decision but rejoined in 2002 with a controversial and disputed reservation exempting it from the ban. It resumed so-called scientific whaling in 2003 and commercial whaling under its reservation in 2006.  From 2003 until the end of the 2013 whaling season, Iceland killed 414 fin whales and 531 minke whales.  Fin whales are categorized as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and both fin and minke whales are listed on Appendix 1 of CITES (with the exception of the West Greenland stock of minke whales). In addition to its reservation to the IWC ban, Iceland lodged a reservation to the Appendix I listing of most great whales when it joined CITES in 2000.