Iceland has long been divided when it comes to whaling, although this could be changing. Recent sentiments expressed by the Icelandic Prime Minister, along with growing local opposition to the whaling industry, could indicate that the tide is turning in favor of the whales.
Controversy erupted recently when Icelandic whalers killed a protected blue whale, as corroborated by photos and video by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Hard to Port, the two conservation groups credited with the discovery.
The company that killed this whale, Hvalur hf, is the only whaling company in Iceland. It is owned by the country’s reportedly richest man, Kristján Loftsson, and is frequently at odds with the burgeoning whale watching industry, which is very popular with tourists. Despite the global moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland allocates quotas to Hvalur hf, allowing it to kill minke whales and endangered fin whales. Blue whales are strictly prohibited, however.
An article was published last week that delves into the government’s genetic investigation of the whale, in order to determine whether Hvalur hf did in fact kill a blue whale - or whether it was, as the company contends, some kind of a hybrid - and whether the quota was violated. In the article, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said that, in addition to the investigation, an assessment of the economic, environmental and social aspects of whaling will be carried out.
Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir went further to suggest that she is not in favor of the industry.
This sentiment, coupled with recent protests carried out by groups including Samtök Grænmetisæta á Íslandi, Vegan samtökin and Jarðarvinir Dýraverndarsamband Íslands, could spell the beginning of the end to the controversial killing of whales for profit. At the very least, it lends support for the protection of whales - something that many Icelandic people are in favor of.
Ultimately, the profits of one wealthy individual should not determine the fate of a species, or even those of individual whales, who have been proven as being intelligent, emotional, social and peaceful. Hopefully those in Iceland who view whales as deserving of protection will increasingly have their voices heard.
Header image by Hard to Port.