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Iceland Ends Hunts for Minke Whales – For Now

| Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Iceland, Slaughter, Whales, Whaling

While endangered fin whales continue to be hunted in the north Atlantic, Icelandic whalers recently announced they would no longer hunt minke whales, at least for now.  

Despite Iceland’s claims that minke whales are abundant in the north Atlantic, their whaling vessels have increasingly been unable to find any to kill.  Only six minke whales were killed in June, and none in July. Unable to cover their costs, the whaling company ended the minke whale hunts early. But they will likely head out again on the hunt for minkes in the future.

The self-imposed quota for 2018 is 262 minke whales, but whalers have in fact been unable to find enough minke whales for several years in a row to meet that expansive quota.

In 2016, whalers were able to kill only 46 minke whales, while only seventeen whales were caught in 2017.  This is a classic case of whale population depletion, resulting from overkill of a small population. Time and time again, we have seen this pattern in commercial whaling, where governments assume huge numbers, but whalers have to stop when their population fantasies come up against reality.

Yet, this is not the end.  The whalers continue to pursue fin whales, which are considered endangered by most countries and whale scientists.  Fin whale meat isn’t even utilized in Iceland – most gets exported to Japan, a dubious procedure that violates the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species  (CITES).

In related Icelandic whaling news, the blue whale killed by Icelandic whalers has been deemed a “hybrid” between fin and blue whales by the Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute officials based on DNA testing.  Therefore, the reasoning goes, Icelandic whalers were not in violation of their own quotas, which do not include the endangered blue whale. 

One can be suspicious of these DNA results – the whaling fleet and factory, under the banner of Hvalur hf, are owned by Kristjan Loftsson, reputedly the richest man in Iceland.  To say that Loftsson carries a lot of clout in Iceland is an understatement.

Furthermore, the whale killed sure looks like a blue whale, and not a fin whale at all.  Yet the whalers, knowing that killing a blue whale was illegal even in Iceland, went ahead and harpooned him anyway.   

Hybridization is rare in the wild, and can be attributed in this case to blue and fin whales being so depleted that they cannot find mates of their own species.

Polling recently showed Icelandic citizen support for commercial whaling was down to 34%.

It is long past time for Iceland to stop killing endangered and depleted whales.


Photo credit WayneRay/WikiMedia