A short history of Icelandic Commercial Whaling

Whilst the utilization of whales in the North Atlantic goes back hundreds of years, the active whaling that we see today is more of a modern invention.

In the 19th Century Iceland was still a Danish dependency. In 1863 the Americans Roys and Lilliendahl had started by setting up operations with a shore station at Seydisfjördur on the east coast of Iceland operating both a sailing vessel and a steam boat that towed two whaling boats[1].

In 1865 the Danish naval officer O.C. Hammer founded Det Danske Fiskeriselskab (Danish Fishing Company) to allow for fishing and whaling around Iceland. Roys helped train the Danish prospective whalers and agreed to the sale of rockets and harpoons.

Hammer set up two whaling stations, one of the south west coast and one on the east coast of Iceland, but whaling was abandoned in 1869.

In 1869 and 1875 Dutch operators had tried to resume whaling in these waters, further to a centuries old Yankee whaling tradition that they had carried out previously.

In 1879 the inhabitants of Haugesund (a small town on the west coast of Norway) had stated fishing herring off the Icelandic coast, there being no Icelandic herring fishery at the time. One of the fishermen a Mons Larsen Kro approached Svend Foyn and together they capitalized a company and the building of the whale catcher the 84-ton Isafold. A shore station was built at Alptafjördur in the northwest of Iceland, and Svend Foyn independently sought to set up a station at Nordfjördur on the east coast.

However, Foyn encountered considerable difficulties with the local Icelandic/Danish authorities that insisted that he become a Danish citizen, settled in Iceland, to operate in Iceland. Foyn, the symbolic Norwegian nationalist of course refused. Foyn also encountered an Icelandic fishing community that shared their Finnmark colleague’s views on whaling and faced with this local opposition and governmental bureaucracy he sold his shares to a relation of Larsen’s, a Thomas Amile from Oslo.

Amile moved to Iceland and ran the expedition for the next six years hunting mostly blue whales. In 1887 a second catcher vessel was purchased. Catches were better than in Finnmark with some 4,000 barrels of oil were produced in 1888. This encouraged more companies to look to Iceland, even though the years 1889-93 gave pretty poor returns. However in 1894 Icelandic whaling entered a seventeen-year boom period, and in 1894 Amile bought a third catcher boat making a record catch of 128 whales in 1895.

In 1889-94 four new companies, all Norwegian, established operations in Iceland, with five more following between 1896 and 1903. They created some fourteen different shore stations, eight on the west coast and six on the east coast.

The major targets for the whalers were the ever-decreasing numbers of blue whales. Next targeted were the fin whales and humpbacks. Occasionally sei whales were taken and very rarely, nordcapers (right whales) were caught. However it was the large rorquals that could produce the most oil that were the primary targets with meat often dumped at sea once the blubber had been removed.

This whaling cannot be considered in any way just ‘coastal whaling’. Indeed Amile, the Norwegian founder of modern Icelandic whaling, at the age of eighty-two, was killed in a storm off the Faroes. Amile’s company was sold to an Oslo syndicate who then sold it on to the British firm of Christian Salvesen of Leith, Scotland. Salvesen however, quickly transferred the operation to other parts of the Norwegian Sea.

During the period 1883-1915 the most important company operating in Iceland was that of the Norwegian Hans Ellefsen from the county of Vestfold. In 1889 he moved his company from Finnmark to Önundarfjördur, increasing his two boats to seven by 1901. He established a further station on the Mjöafjördur on the east coast, and when his western station was destroyed in a fire he moved all his operations to the east at what became the biggest and most efficient station in the North Atlantic.

Ellefsen went against the practice of dumping the de-blubbered carcass at sea and set up a guano factory. As we saw in Norway, such practices acted as a counter to poor oil price years and sustained operations through to 1907.

However, by 1907 it was clear that over catching was already having an impact on whale populations, and in 1911 Ellefsen sold his company and transferred to South Africa before selling to Christian Salversen.

Salversen’s interest in Icelandic whaling began in 1902 when they invested in the Danish Whaling and Fisheries Company (Dansk Hvalfangst- og Fiskeri Aktieselskab). Despite its name, the company was, in fact, Norwegian and had been operating since 1897 from the Meleyre station on the Isafjördur. 1903 saw a new catcher in operation and represents Salvesen’ s first year of active whaling. However, poor catches saw the closure of the station in 1904. However, Salvesen continued to expand and bought Amile’s old company in 1904 and another Norwegian company in 1906 (that of Marcus C. Bull) operating since 1899 from Hellisfjördur on the east coast. Bull, now a naturalized Danish citizen continued to run the company for Salvesen.

Other interests in Iceland were set up after Amile’s initial success. Two companies were set up in Haugesund, one in 1893 and another in 1902 to exploit whales from the west coast. In 1912 they merged and became the last company to operate from Iceland during this period.

Until this period 'Icelandic' whaling was dominated by Norwegian and foreign interests, with no true domestic whaling industry. In 1897 the Whale Industry Company of Iceland (Hval-Industri Aktieselskabet Island) was established under its major shareholder, A. Asgeirsson, an Icelandic merchant living in Copenhagen. Despite its intentions, all its assets and staff were Norwegian but the company still failed to make a profit and closed in 1906, being sold to Asgeirsson for seven and half percent of its original value. Asgeirsson continued whaling with limited returns until 1913 when it closed down permanently.

Other foreign operators also tried to commence whaling in Iceland and in 1903 the German Hamburg based company Deutsche Seefischerei-Verein (German Sea-fishing Association) commenced whaling from the east coast. This was the first non-Norwegian managed operation and with limited knowledge of whaling and despite a German Government subsidy, the operation floundered in 1905 and was sold to the ‘Dane’ Bull (acting on behalf of Salvesen) who dismantled the whaling station and moved it to the Falklands.

On the 19th February 1886 the Icelandic authorities banned catches within Icelandic territorial waters from 1st may to 31st October, and in areas where herring fishing was taking place. However, most whaling was not affected as the whalers were operating at distances greater than three nautical miles from the coast, and there was no ban on towing whales back to shore stations. In 1903, in an almost copycat position to what was happening in Finnmark, opposition to whaling in Iceland from fishermen resulted in an attempt to ban all whaling, but this was refused by the Icelandic local Parliament, the Althing.  However, in 1913 a total ban was introduced for a period of ten years to run from 1st October 1915.  Icelandic authors suggest that this was an example of Icelandic whale conservation policy[2],[3] but it appears that this was not so much about protecting whales or a method to placate the local fishermen but a method to exclude foreigners from the fishery and secure a period when Icelandic companies could prepare to exploit the whales found around Iceland.[4]

After the 1915 ban was introduced, whaling did not actually recommence until 1935 when an Icelandic company operated for five years from Tálknafjörður[5] though Sigurjónsson notes that this may have been Hvalfjörder.

It should be noted that Iceland has become an independent state under the King of Denmark in 1918. In 1944, the union between Denmark and Iceland formally ended with Iceland becoming a self-governing Republic.

It was not until 1948 that the Icelandic commercial whaling really recommenced with the establishment of the Hvalur H/F company. In the same year Iceland acceded to the International convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) and started attending the IWC annual meetings.

Hvalur purchased the American naval base at the head of the 18-mile long Hval fjord, 35 miles north east of Reykjavik to operate in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. The Hvalur whaling vessels began operating on a three day sea operations, one day traveling out to the hunting grounds and one day back towing, with one day hunting. During the then IWC mandated catching season of 15th May to 15th October, catching began in the southwest and followed the whales migration north towards the Greenland ice. Hvalur took an average of 250 fin whales, with opportunistic hunting of sei whales, blue, humpback and sperm whales.

This period shows a move away from oil to the sale of whale meat for petfood, especially to supply the UK market. The remaining meal supplied the domestic cattle feed market.[6]

In 1982 the IWC moved to ban sperm whaling in the North Atlantic.

There is less information on the hunt for minke whales, though the Icelandic small whale hunt seems to follow a similar pattern to that of Norwegian developments. Hunting of minke whales (B. acutorostrata), the smallest of the baleen whale species, with cold-harpoons and motor vessels did not commence until well into the 20th century.[7] Sigurjónsson[8] discusses the whaling for minkes in west and north Iceland from1914 onwards. He notes that meat was initially for human consumption and some 50 animals a year were taken, but as export markets opened up increasing quotas followed until minke whaling came under IWC regulations in 1977.

In 1982 the IWC voted to suspend all commercial whaling from 1986 and Iceland was faced with deciding whether to object. On the 2nd February 1983 the Icelandic Parliament voted by one vote (29 to 28) not to oppose the IWC decision, but instructions were passed to the Icelandic Marine Research Institute to draw up a research programme targeting 80 fin whales, 40 sei whales and 80 minke whales a year for a period of four years.

The Hvalur whaling company was to be commissioned to carry out the research study for the Icelandic Government.

In August 1986 negotiations between the US Government and Iceland resulted in the research proposal being scaled back to allow for catches of fin and sei whales but a reduced hunt of minke whales. It was also agreed that only 49% of the whale meat would be exported to Japan and some 51% would be consumed ‘nationally’. In reality Iceland was only able to consume some 7% of the total catches (170 tonnes out of 2000 tonnes landed) and the rest was sent for export.

Subsequently the US Government felt that Iceland had reneged on its bilateral agreement and under pressure the Iceland Government agreed on the 19th July 1987 to a temporary ban on all whaling. This was symbolic as the year’s quota for 80 fin whales had already been taken. On the 25th August 1987 the Althing agreed to cut the sei whale quota from 40 to 20 and threatened to review its position as a member of NATO and therefore throwing into doubt the presence of the major US airbase at Keflavik.

Further to criticism of Its Scientific Whaling Programme at the 40th annual meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand, Iceland planned to proceed with its programme of taking 80 fin whales and 20 sei whales that June.

In 1989 there were two attempts to discuss bills in the Althing that would have terminated the scientific whaling programme, but neither led to a formal decision.

In April 1989 two members of the Althing put forward a motion for a parliamentary motion for a parliamentary resolution urging the Minister of Fisheries to allow limited catches of minke whales, but again this did not come to a vote.

Iceland’s last season of research whaling took place on 18th June 1989 and the last of 68 fin whales was killed a month later. During the four year research programme a total of 362 whales had been caught; 116 in 1986, 100 in 1987, 78 in 1988 and 68 in 1989; against the original proposal to kill 800 whales.

Again in spring 1990 two members of the Althing again tried to promote a take of scientific minke whales, but the proposal did not receive proper discussion.

At a meeting of the Icelandic Government on 27th December 1991 it was decided that Iceland would withdraw from the IWC as from the 30th June 1992. Despite earlier assurances Norway refrained from following Iceland at the annual meeting in Glasgow. Iceland attended the first day of the meeting as a signatory member and then the rest of the meeting as an observer.

Iceland attended the first meeting of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) in Nuuk, Greenland, on the 9th April 1992 alongside the Faroes, Greenland and Norway. The inaugural meeting of NAMMCO took place in Torshavn, the Faroes, in September of that year. Canada and the Russian Federation were present as observers.

Despite Iceland’s optimism that NAMMCO would grant minke whale quotas none of the other members were willing to go so far to challenge the IWC. There was a similar situation at the second meeting of NAMMCO in Tromsø on the 19-20 January 1993 when Iceland was unable to persuade the other members to discuss minke whale quotas.

During the 1990s illegal minke whaling was apparently ‘tolerated’ by Icelandic authorities.[9] As off 1995 six mike whalers were operating along the west and north coast of Iceland with one individual whaler killing some 12-15 whales in 1994, whilst the other vessels were taking 2-3 whales a year. Two boats were known to be operating from Brjásløker on the west coast.

Iceland comes back to the IWC[10]

In 2002 Iceland rejoined the IWC with a legally disputed reservation against the moratorium. Some countries still do not recognize Iceland’s membership of the IWC.

Iceland started its next phase of scientific whaling in 2003 (killing 36 minkes in 2003, 25 in 2004, 39 in 2005, 60 minkes in 2006 and 36 in 2007). Iceland killed a total of 200 minke whales for research by the end of the 2007 season, when the Fisheries Minister announced that the scientific minke hunt had been closed.

Iceland resumed commercial whaling under its ‘reservation’ to the moratorium[11] in 2006, killing seven out of nine fin whales and seven out of 30 minkes in a self-allocated 2006/7 commercial quota. The Government announced on the 19th of May 2008 that it would set a commercial quota of 40 minke whales for 2008, of which it killed some 37 minkes.

Iceland issued quotas for 2009 of 150 fin whales and at least 100 minke whales a year, to run from 2009 to 2013. Iceland was hoping that exports of fin whale meat would make teh hunt economical, but they could not have forseen the effects of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake.

Domestic Market 

Iceland historically exported much of its whale meat to Japan as its domestic market is very small: According to a 2005 research report, it is estimated that the current domestic market for minke whale meat in Iceland is in the range of only 5 to 15 tonnes a year at most.[12] A poll conducted by IFAW in 2006 indicated that only 1.1% of Icelandic households ate whale meat weekly.[13]

Minke whale meat has sold poorly in Iceland since whaling resumed in 2003. When queried by Parliament in 2004 about sales of whale meat from the 2003 hunt, the sthen Fisheries Minister Arni Mathiesen confirmedthat, of the 35 tons of minke whale meat produced,23 tons remained unsold nearly a year after the hunthad concluded.[14] According to further reports in theIcelandic media, the 2003-2004 combined productionof minke whale meat was 62 tonnes. Of this, between32 and 37 tons remained unsold well into 2005.

With the resumption of a commercial fin whalehunt in 2006, further difficulties in domestic sales ofwhale meat were experienced, especially with thesignificant yield of meat from a fin whale, which isat least 10 times the size of a minke whale. Icelandhistorically exported most of its whale meat to Japan, but international commercial trade in whale meat has been banned since 1986 by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Both Iceland and Japan hold reservations to the trade ban.

The Icelandic press reported in early 2007 that 179 tonnes of “slaughter waste” or “a proportion of about one-third to one-half of the [fin] whales” killed in the commercial hunt had been dumped in landfills. Historically, blubber was processed by Iceland, but only a small domestic market remains for this product, which is sold as “pickled blubber” during the traditional Icelandic winter festival, Thorrablot. Kristjan Loftsson, owner/manager of Iceland’s commercial fin whaling company Hvalur hf. acknowledged to the Icelandic press that 100 tons of fin whale meat from the 2006 hunt remained in freezer storage months after the close of the whale hunt.


Given the difficulties in selling whale meat domestically, Iceland has repeatedly stated its interest in re-opening trade in whale products. Both the minke and fin whalers have expressed interest in exporting meat to Japan5 although a Japanese diplomat in Oslo responded that Japan already had more than enough whale meat.[15]

Iceland lodged a reservation to the Appendix I listing of most great whales when it joined CITES in 2000. Citing this reservation, Icelandic nationals imported eight tonnes of minke whale meat and blubber from the whaling company of Ole Mindor Myklebust of Norway in July 2002 and 17 more tonnes in October of 2002. The frozen Norwegian whale meat initially sold well, and went for a price of 993 kronur per kilo.

However, in 2003 it was discovered that the Norwegian whale meat contained much higher levels of mercury than the minkes taken in Iceland’s ‘scientific’ hunt. As a result of this research into toxin levels in whale meat (both Icelandic and Norwegian), the Icelandic Surgeon General’s office issued a warning to pregnant and nursing mothers to restrict their intake of whale meat due to concerns over high levels of mercury.

In September of 2006, it was announced that Iceland would sell up to two tonnes of minke whale meat to the Faroe Islands. The first export of 0.5 tonnes of whale meat from Iceland to the Faroe Islands occurred that year, followed by a shipment of some 90 tonnes of whale meat to the Faroes in late 2008.

In 2006, Iceland asked the Animals Committee of CITES to review the status of fin whales, which are currently listed on CITES Appendix I, banning trade. The request was accepted by the Animals Committee, but failed at the 14th meeting of the Parties to CITES in June of 2007. In addition, a Japanese proposal that all great whales be subject to the same review as the fin whale failed as well. WDCS strongly opposed these two requests, which were intended to pave the way to a resumption of trade in whale products, at the June 2007 meeting.

There are ongoing accounts in the press that there had been meetings with Japan to discuss the export of Icelandic whale meat to Japan.  Kyodo news reported on a series of meetings in October 2007 and quoted Fisheries Minister Guðfinnsson as saying that Iceland hoped to conclude negotiation before the 2008-whaling season.[16]

In early June of 2008, whaling company owner, Kristjan Loftsson, announced that he had exported some 65 tons of fin whale meat to Japan.

Given the Iceland and Japan hold reservations to the listing of whales by CITES; only the exporting country (in this case Iceland) needs to supply a permit.  When news of the whale meat shipments went public, Japanese government officials initially indicated that they had been unaware of the whale trade. The meat was initially held in customs, but was released for sale in December of 2008.

Since then, Icelandic whaling interests have indicated that the export market is the main driving force behind their resumption of commercial whaling with Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, head of the Icelandic Federation of Minke Whale hunters, declared that they were now looking to “sell 90 percent of the meat to Japan."

Current Whaling

In early September 2007 the state run Marine Research Institute of Iceland (HAFRO) announced that the last minke whale had been killed in Iceland’s multi-year “scientific whaling” programme.  On 3 September, the Drofn RE pulled into port in Reykjavik, and HAFRO’s research hunt came to an end; 200 minke whales were killed in the period from 2003 to 2007.  Gisli Vikingsson, a whale researcher with HAFRO, said to the press that preliminary results “seemed to indicate that cod and sand eels seemed to make up more of the minke diet than had been estimated”. [17]

Immediately following the closure, the Icelandic Minke Whalers’ Association announced that sales of whale meat had been going well throughout the summer, and that restaurants who serve whale meat were encouraged to put their orders in to ensure that they had enough supply in the off-season.  The Association called on the government to issue new quotas for the coming year.[18]

Although the Icelandic commercial whaling quota was to have expired on 31 August 2007, Fisheries Minister Einar K. Guðfinnsson announced in mid-September that he was extending the minke whale hunt until the 1st of November given that only 7 of 30 minkes had been killed.[19] However, despite the fact that the whaling vessel Halldor Sigurdsson IS hadindicated that it would take advantage of the prolonged commercial quota, no further whales were taken. It was announced on the 23rd of October that the commercial hunt had basically come to a close, with 23 minkes not taken out of a quota of 30.[20]

In late October, the Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association (LIU) held its annual meeting in Reykjavik; Gisli Vikingsson, a whale researcher from the Marine Research Institute presented a paper on the feeding ecology of whales off Iceland.  Vikingsson claimed that whales are eating 140,000 tons of cod annually, “ten thousand tons more than the quota for cod for the 2008 fishing season.”[21] The LIU, a powerful industry organization, passed a resolution calling for commercial whaling to go ahead.[22]

In November, the emphasis shifted to humpback whales, with Vikingsson publicly announcing that he estimates that humpbacks eat a million tons of capelin a year in Icelandic waters “or between five and eight thousand tons a day”; the HAFRO scientist said that it would be “premature” however to comment on whether scientific whaling for humpbacks in Icelandic waters would be desirable.[23]The whaling industry immediately jumped on Vikingsson’s claims and called on the Icelandic government to give quotas for humpback whales.  Konrad Eggertsson, the captain of the whaling vessel the Halldor Sigurdsson IS and head of the Minke Whalers’ Association, said that scientific whaling for humpbacks should begin “immediately” and not even wait until next summer.[24]

The national debate on whaling was renewed in the spring of 2008, in a series of parliamentary debates in the Althing.  On 10 April 2008, MP Birkir Jonsson questioned Environment Minister Thorunn Sveinbjarndottir on the issue of whales and their impact on fish stocks and quotas; the Minister responded that the situation was much more complex when it came to managing the marine ecosystem.  He also noted that anthropogenic effects on marine life such as pollution and over-fishing also needed to be considered.[25]

On the 15th of April, MP Mordur Arnason questioned Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson on whether he felt that Iceland’s image had suffered due to whaling, to which the Minister responded “No”. [26]That same day, the Minke Whalers Association announced on its website (www.hrefna.is) that it was readying its boats for a resumption of whaling.[27]

The Althing debates continued on the 16th, with further discussions on whales and fish, and on the 30th of April, 2008 MP Jon Gunnarsson presented a request to the Fisheries Minister asking for clarification of the results of Iceland’s scientific minke whale hunt, with reference to the amount of fish in the whales’ diet.

Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson announced that he had issued a quota for 40 minke whales on the 19th of May, and the first whaling vessel, the Njörður KÓ killed its first whale on May 20th. Two other vessels, the Dröfn RE and the Halldór Sigurðsson ÍS, were also scheduled to participate in the 2008 hunt.[28] The whalers’ association announced that they have begun to do their own marketing, sales and distribution of whale meat and blubber, in conjunction with the Kjötvinnslan Esja meat company.[29]

In the 24 hours following Fisheries Minister Einar K. Guðfinnsson’s decision to allow a resumption of commercial whaling, reaction was swift, highly critical, and in large part split across party lines.  Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir issued a public statement that she is against the hunt, in essence accusing Minister Guðfinnsson of  “putting short term gains against long term interests”.  Össur Skarphéðinsson, the Minister for Industry also lamented the hunt, saying in an interview with the leading Icelandic daily Morgunbladid, said that he, too, is displeased with the Fisheries Minister’s decision to issue the quota.[30]

In January 2009 the then Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinsson issued a whaling quota for 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales a year, to run from 2009 until 2013.

The quota was allocated in light of the ongoing discussions within the IWC between Japan and a small group of nations headed by Dr. William Hogarth of the USA, which sought a trade-off between Japan and the rest of the world over its so-called scientific whaling.  Press reports at the time suggested that Hogarth proposed to the meeting that Japan give up its own fin whaling operations in Antarctica in return for the right to whale legally in its coastal waters for the first time since commercial whaling was banned in 1986. With Iceland facing bankruptcy and Japan potentially looking for cheap sources of meat to offset any reductions it might volunteer in its Antarctic ‘research’ whaling, the prospect of a ‘deal’ had seemingly emboldened Iceland’s whaling industry.

Then Minister Gudfinnsson, who has been outspoken in his support of commercial whaling, issued a statement saying that the new quotas have been set according to the scientific recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute (HAFRO) which in 2007 had recommended that as many as 200 fin whales and up to as many as 400 minke whales could be killed a year.  On the 23rd of January, the Minke Whalers Association of Iceland had asked Gudfinnsson for a quota of 200 minke whales a year.

In February 2009 Iceland’s new Minister of Fisheries, Steingrimur Sigfusson, stated his support for Iceland’s resumption of commercial whaling. He issued a decision earlier saying that he will not revoke the whaling quotas issued by his outgoing predecessor Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinnsson.

On February 11th, ex-Minister Gudfinnsson introduced a resolution in support of his whaling quotas to the Icelandic parliament, the Althing.  Backed by 36 members, this constituted a majority of the parliament’s 63 members.

By September 2009 Hvalur had killed some 125 fin whales and The owner of the industrial fin whaling fleet, Loftsson was quoted as saying he expects to export some 1500 tons of whale meat to Japan. In 2010, Hvular had kiiled some 148 fin whales and Icelandic fishermen had killed some 60 minke whales. In 2011, no fin whales were taken and only 51 minke whales to feed a domestic and tourist market.

As of February 2010 Iceland and the EU began exploring Iceland’s entry to the EU but Loftsson and Iceland’s whaling interests immediately began campaigning against entry on the grounds that they would need to cease commercial whaling. The situation was further complicated in that the IWC was discussing a ‘deal’ to give Japan, Norway and Norway a minke whale quota under a new classification of whaling.

In January 2012 the Icelandic Government appeared to be setting out to review its position on whaling and increasing support for whale watching.

It appears that they are looking to conduct an audit of the pros and cons of whaling, including its potential market in Japan vs. the potential negative effects on tourism. The review may also see the expansion of areas defined as off-limits to hunting for benefit of the whale watching tourism industry.

An Icelandic MP is also taking advantage of the change in Fisheries Ministers in Iceland, MP Mordur Arnason has put in three questions related to whaling, and calling on Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson to answer them[31].

Question 1: 

To the Fisheries and Agriculture Minister on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling. Is it the policy of the Icelandic government or not that there should be special provisions for ASW in conjunction with the IWC, or that aboriginal whaling should be treated equally to industrial (ie commercial) whaling?

Question 2:

1. What is the minster's communication strategy for sustainable whaling?
2. Is whaling "sustainable" if a significant portion of the whale's body is left at sea, or thrown in landfills?
3. Can whaling be considered "sustainable" if only a small portion of the catch has been sold successfully for a long time?

Question 3:

Can the minister state if it is decided whether whaling is necessary for fisheries management?  If so, on what theoretical basis has the decision been made that whaling is part of fisheries management?

 After a year when no fin whaling took place because the Japanese market was closed to exports and domestic consumption of minke whale is only being maintained by tourists, maybe the Icelandic Government is really ready to contemplate the end of its commercial whaling.

Postscript: Icelandic Whale stocks collapse

A little more than a week after Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinnsson announced he was allowing a commercial minke whale hunt to resume, two scientists from the government-sponsored Marine Research Institute - along with a Canadian colleague - published results from recent whale surveys in Icelandic waters showing what they call  “a significant decrease” in the minke whale stock off Iceland.

According to the paper by Icelandic scientists Thorvauldur Gunnlaugsson and Gisli Vikingsson and Canadian researcher Daniel Pike, sightings surveys from 2007 indicate that the abundance estimate for the minke whale population in Icelandic waters is now estimated to be between 10,000 – 15,000 animals, only 24% of the estimate published in 2001.

Todate, its unclear whether the Icelandic Government have taken this data into consideration when allocating quotas.




[1]Tønnessen J.N., and Johnsen A.O. (1982) The History of Modern Whaling, translated from the Norwegian by Christophersen, R.I., C. Hurst and Company, London. At 75  

[2] Sigurjónsson, J. To Icelanders Whaling is a Godsend pages 29-36

[3]Sigurjónsson, J. (1988): “The intensified programme of whale research in Iceland”, Modern Iceland, No.4, 29-33 – quoted in Iceland’s Whaling Comeback: Preparations for the Resumption of Whaling’, WDCS. 1995

[4] Supra 1. At 82

[6] Ibid., 1 At 646

[7] Sigurjónsson, J. Whaling in the North Atlantic - Economic and Political Perspectives, in  Ed Petursdottir, E. G. , University of Iceland, 1997, ISBN 9979-54-213-6. Proceedings of a conference held in Reykjavik on March 1st, 1997, organized by the Fisheries Research Institute and the High North Alliance, available at: http://www.highnorth.no/library/Publications/iceland/wh-re-in.htm, accessed on 19th Feb 2010

[8]International Whaling Commission. 1993b Report of the Scientific Committee. Rep. int. Whal. Commn.43. At 31
[9]WDCS investigation 1995.

[11]Note that a ‘reservation’ by a non-party is legally ambiguous in IWC parlance as Parties are required to submit ‘Objections’ to decisions of the IWC once they are members.

[12]. “The Whale Meat Market: Study on Current and P

ossible Markets and Costs and Trends”, Þorsteinn Siglaugsson. Report commissioned by IFAW and INCA, June 2005
[13]IFAWCapacent Gallup Poll for Iceland, 2006

[14]“ Iceland Announces Dramatically Reduced Whale Hunt for 2004”, Business Wire, June 2, 2004. “Talid ad 32-37 tonn af hrefnukjoti seu enn oseld” Morgunbladid,3.6. 2005.

[15]Haegt ad selja hvalkjoti til Japans a thessu ari”, Bjaerens Besta, 14.9.2006. and  “Iceland and Japan in whale meat export talks” Iceland  Financial News 9 November 2006

[16]“Iceland in talks to export whale meat to Japan”, Kyodo News Service, 10.10.2007. “Samningum vid Japani fer ad ljuka”, www.hrefna.is 11.11.2007

[17]“Hafro haett hrefnuveidum”, RUV, 03.09.2007. ”Visindaveidum lokid” at www.hrefna.is 04.09.2007

[18]”Hrefnukjotid ad klarast” at www.hrefna.is, 06.09.2007

[19]Br. nr. 822, 14. September 2007 Breyting á reglugerð nr. 163, 30. maí 1973, um hvalveiðar
[20]“Hrefnuveidum lokid: 23 dyr oveidd av kvotanum”, Skip, 24.10.2007

[21]“Hrefnur taldar eta 140,000 thorsktonn”, Frettabladid, 27.10.2007. ”Mikid af thorski i faedu hrefnu”, RUV,  29.10.2007. ”Fæðuvistfræði hvala á Íslandsmiðum - Staðan í  rannsóknunum” talk by Gisli Vikingsson to the 68th meeting of the LIU, 25.10.2007

[22]“Samþykktar tillögur á aðalfundi LÍÚ 2007 sem haldinn var í Reykjavík 25. og 25. október 2007.” resolutions from the 2007 AGM of the LIU at www.liu.is

[23]“Hnufubakur etur um milljon tonn af lodnu”, Frettabladid, 19.11.2007

[24]“Visindaveidar a hnufubak pola enga bid”, Fiskifrettir, 26.11.2007

[26]. “Hvalveidar ekki skadad imyndina”, RUV, 15.04.2008

[27]“Klarir a hrefnuveidar”, Skip, 16.04.2008 and www.hrefna.is

[28]“Fyrsta hrefnan veiddi a Faxafloa”, Morgunbladid 21. May 2008

[29]Available at:  www.hrefna.is

[30]”Óánægja með hrefnuveiðar”,Morgunbladid,20.05.2008.14.9.2006. and  “Iceland and Japan in whale meat export talks” Iceland Financial News 9 November 2006