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
The Codfather being good with Anvil kick feeding right next to them_0761 branded

Spout Spotters: Boater Safety Around Whales Online Course Launches

After countless hours behind the computer, bountiful snacks, and a few stress relieving walks with...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
65556ab2635fdab7b4e12265b9623d64

Stream to Sea: Orca Action Month 2022

This June was an exceptionally busy and exciting Orca Month, starting with a somewhat surprising...
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...
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...

We have to close the Northeast Passage to whale meat!

The Winter Bay, the cargo vessel chartered by Icelandic fin whaler, Kristján Loftsson, arrived Thursday morning at the port of Tromsø in Norway. So much then, for her skipper’s stubborn persistence for many days in notifying that her destination would be Tema, Ghana. Our suspicions were raised last week when, rather than heading south from Iceland, the Winter Bay, with her cargo of an estimated 1,800 tonnes of fin whale meat, headed steadily northwest. And so it has proved: the Winter Bay will not follow the same route as the Alma did last summer when she travelled down the African coastline and up through the Indian Ocean and South China Sea to Japan.  Instead, she will attempt to go ‘over the top’, taking the risky Northeast Passage. Or so we currently believe – since ‘smoke and mirrors’ is often Mr Loftsson’s preferred modus operandi  though we do know that on 25th May, the Winter Bay was issued a permit to travel that route, confirming Ghana as merely a red herring.

This latest escapade makes me both angry and concerned: angry, because last summer, I witnessed endangered fin whales being pulled out of the water hand over fist and these same whales are now being shipped halfway round the world, presumably because Loftsson needs the freezer space to accommodate this year’s catch. His intention to offload his stockpiled meat in Japan not only flouts the global ban on commercial whaling but also undermines CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

I’m concerned too, on several levels. Firstly because the Northeast Passage is a difficult route at the best of times and questions have been raised about the Winter Bay’s seaworthiness as she was laid up in the harbour at Hafnarfjordur for some weeks before departing, reportedly with mechanical problems. Certainly, as a single-hulled ship, rated Ice Class 1, she has only very basic ice strengthening.  The Northeast Passage is closed until July due to thick ice and most vessels attempting to use the route before September will require the services of an ice-breaker.

Winter Bay

Add to the mix the fact that Aquaship, the Winter Bay’s management company, has a history of safety and  labour violations – and that the Winter Bay is flagged to St Kitts and Nevis, which votes with Japan at IWC (International Whaling Commission) meetings and was “yellow-carded” by the EU only last December for illegal fishing activities – and it isn’t too far fetched to worry, firstly, about crew safety, should an accident happen in those remote polar waters, and secondly, about the potential for damage to the sensitive Arctic ecosystem.

The fact that Loftsson is even considering such an undertaking illustrates his desperation to get his meat to Japan – and proves that he is fast running out of options. Thanks to public and NGO protest, ports such as Rotterdam, and shipping companies such as Samskip and Evergreen Lines, have refused to accept his cargo: previous routes through Europe or across the Americas are now almost certainly closed to him (although in the case of European ports, we continue our campaign to see this enshrined in EU legislation and not merely a voluntary ban by individual ports).

The Northeast Passage is probably the last – and only route – open to Loftsson. We need to close it! You can be sure that WDC will be working with our allies and official agencies to explore every avenue to stop the Winter Bay going any further and close this route to whale meat.

This madness has to stop.