Whale watching is a popular tourism activity in Iceland – unfortunately, so is eating them.
Iceland is one of only three countries that still supports a commercial whaling industry, flouting the 1982 Global Moratorium on Whaling as put forth by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Iceland continues to kill minke whales and the endangered fin whale. They export whale meat, oil, and blubber in increasing quantities to Japan and Norway, violating an international ban on trade in whale products by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
But one of the biggest supporters of this inhuman industry is tourism: tourists from Europe, North America and the rest of the world end up eating around 40% of the whale meat. Tourism is supporting this industry that should have been dead in the water long ago.
Whaling is a cruel, outdated practice, inflicting incredibly painful deaths onto these gentle giants. It can take many minutes, and sometimes hours, for whales to die at the end of a harpoon line.
Icelanders remain split on the issue of whaling. Many locals both love and respect the whales; the whale watching tourism industry brings in more money and jobs every year. But tourism also brings appetites for whale meat – something that can be changed only through awareness.
The International Marine Mammal Project’s Dolphin and Whale Project has attended IWC conferences for years, advocating for an end to Iceland’s whaling. Under the US Pelly Amendment, we supported sanctions against Iceland for undermining international conservation agreements, including the treaty undergirding the IWC. We have joined our colleague organizations in encouraging companies that do business with Iceland to take a stand against Icelandic whaling. We will not stop until the last whaling ship is docked permanently in the harbor.
So enjoy your trip to Iceland, but make sure to leave whales in the water and off of your plate. Many restaurants in Iceland that cater to tourists serve whale meat dishes, so make sure you don’t order one, and you can tell your server why you will not support whaling.
Header image credit Jonas Fr. Thorsteinsson / www.goecco.com.