Whilst fin whales off Iceland have a reprieve from the harpoons this summer, minke whales in those waters are less fortunate as minke whaler, Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, defiantly declares ‘business as usual’. His company, Hrafnreydur ehf, killed 29 minke whales last year although he could have taken as many as 229 under Iceland’s self-allocated quota, which contravenes the global moratorium on commercial whaling.
Gunnar is reported in Icelandic media as commenting: “We intend to stick to our guns and keep going in the spring. The hunt maybe hasn’t gone as well [in previous years] as we would have chosen. We have been hunting about 30 whales a year, but we need about 50 to meet the demand.”
He claims that last year, demand was such that the meat ran out and restaurants were forced to import minke whale meat from Norway. Yet this is a strange claim since very few Icelanders eat whale meat and even among tourists – traditionally the main consumers of the minke whale meat under the misapprehension that it is a ‘traditional dish’ – demand has halved in recent years due to public information campaigns by WDC and other NGOs.
I would also question Gunnar’s confident belief that, despite his company’s apparent difficulty in locating minkes in last year’s hunt, there are plenty of whales out there and they have merely changed their home range. Such an assertion allows him to claim his hunts are ‘sustainable’: yet even scientists at HAFRO, Iceland’s pro-whaling Marine Research Institute, admit that they don’t know enough about the abundance, home range and behaviour of minke whale stocks in those waters. Surely, then, the precautionary principle should come into play and Gunnar Bergmann, too, should call time on his hunt?