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Icelandic government lifts suspension on cruel hunts

Hvalur 8 arrives at whaling station

The Icelandic government is to allow fin whales to be hunted again after lifting a suspension introdcued this summer because the slaughter was ruled unlawful on welfare grounds.

In an announcement today, Svandís Svavarsdóttir (minister) says that whaling will be allowed again under certain regulations. She says that supervision will be increased significantly. The regulation will take effect tomorrow.

The regulations mean the Food and Veterinary Authority and the Directorate of Fisheries will work together to monitor the fisheries (the hunts). The agencies are expected to submit a report to the Ministry at the end of the hunting season summarising the main findings of the 2023 whale hunt monitoring.

‘These new measures are pointless and irrelevant. Training, education and better equipment or killing methods - the measures they have put in place - will never make whaling acceptable - there is no humane way to kill whales at sea and they will still suffer', says Luke McMillan, anti whaling campaigner at Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

‘This decision is hugely disappointing and a massive step backwards. We have been engaging with the government and our partners on the ground to expose the cruelty and show that hunting whales at sea can never take place humanely. We will keep fighting until this barbaric killing comes to an end - the majority of Icelanders back an end to whaling and we stand beside them. To help fight climate breakdown we need more whales in the ocean not less.’

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur had been seeking to overturn the government’s initial suspension of the hunts, a decision reached after its Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST - the country's expert council on animal welfare) released a report in June that concluded last year's hunt season was unlawful because it fell below standards set out in the Icelandic Animal Welfare Act.

Together with our partner organisation Hard To Port, we alerted government officials to violations of animal welfare laws in the Icelandic fin whale hunt. Government officials have been confronted with evidence that in many cases the explosive charges of the harpoons used do not detonate when fired at the fin whales, and the whales are subjected to an agonizing ordeal. This led to the government ordering mandatory monitoring on whaling vessels by vets.

The subsequent report revealed appalling video footage exposing the enormous cruelty of the hunts, with some whales suffering for up to two hours after being shot with a harpoon.

‘Whales are highly intelligent and social creatures, playing a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of our oceans. Their presence enriches our marine environment and contributes to the flourishing of diverse marine species. The decision goes against the growing global consensus on the need to protect these important marine mammals and prioritise their welfare.’

Despite fin whales being classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and a lack of demand for the meat, whalers killed 148 fin whales last year.