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Appeal to the Icelandic government – Stop and ban whaling

Whaling violates animal welfare laws, threatens marine life and ecosystems, releases significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and damages Iceland's image.

Reykjavík, 23 June 2022

To: Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Government of Iceland

Appeal to the Icelandic government – Stop and ban whaling

Dear Svandís,

We urge you and the government to stop whaling off Iceland as soon as possible. It has been shown that whaling is economically inadvisable and is harmful to the climate, marine ecosystems and the nation's image.
We believe that all the preconditions for the quota issued for the years 2019-2023 are broken and we demand that the hunting be stopped.

Whaling violates animal welfare laws, threatens marine life and ecosystems, releases significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and damages Iceland's image.

We cannot sell the pure and beautiful image of Iceland in whale-watching trips and at the same time kill whales.

The whaling season began now after a four-year break when two vessels of Hvalur hf. left the harbour to go and hunt whales. They are allowed to catch 161 fin whales and 217 minke whales. Fin whales are on the watch list of animals under threat of extinction according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Japan is the only country that buys the meat of fin whales.

Renewal of whaling quotas 2019-2023

When Kristján Þór Júlíusson was Minister of Fisheries, he issued a new quota for the hunting of fin whales and minke whales until 2023, and he was the only one to make that decision, without any elections or consultation with the public. He justified that decision, among other things, with reference to an "economic report" which was supported by Kristján Loftsson, the owner of Hvalur hf. This report has been harshly criticized by the scientific community and was for instance corrected by the Icelandic Ecological Society (Vistfræðifélag Íslands).

"This report can hardly be considered a significant document for an in-depth discussion on the utilization of the country's natural resources. For that, it is too superficial and biased and, in particular, sloppily done with regard to biology and ecology. To provide information that is at least 20 years old on what whales eat, posit their food up out of context, and use a simple, 20-30-year-old "multi-species model" that the international scientific community has rejected as unusable – and which a Professor Emeritus at the University of Iceland quashed almost 10 years ago (due to an earlier report by the Institute of Economic Studies, C10:02) – “is unacceptable and a disgrace to the country's highest scientific institute”. Hilmar J. Malmquist, biologist and director of the Icelandic Museum of Natural History.

Impact of whaling on the climate

Climate change is today the greatest threat to the planet and all humanity. One whale binds carbon that is equivalent to 1000 trees by diving to the seabed and travelling the oceans while producing nutrient-rich clouds of faeces, and when they end their life in the ocean itself and sink to the bottom, they provide basic carbon sequestration for the climate. Thus, they are one of the most important links in our fight against climate change. However, when whales are caught and processed, they release carbon into the atmosphere. If Hval hf. succeeds in its goal of catching 161 fin whales this summer, this will be equivalent to the emissions that result from felling about 161,000 trees.

Whales strengthen fish stocks

Nutrients from whales strengthen plankton and other invertebrates; their increase strengthens fish stocks, large and small, and eventually the whales themselves. Whales give more than they take.

Economically inadvisable hunting

The success of whale watching companies in Iceland shows us unequivocally that whales are far more valuable alive than dead.
Hvalur hf. earns about one million krona for each whale caught (if the meat can be sold).
Whale watching companies, on the other hand, earn a similar amount for one whale watching trip with about 125 passengers. Japan is the only country in the world that trades in whale meat and other countries have banned the purchase and sale of whale meat and refuse to allow ships with whale meat to dock in port on their way from Iceland to Japan. Kristján Loftsson was even left with 3.6 billion krona worth of whale meat, which the Japanese refused to receive in 2016. These killings are therefore in vain.

Cultural heritage

The myth that there is a strong tradition of eating whale meat in Iceland has no basis in reality, but is something we learned from the Norwegians a few decades ago. Surveys show that only a small percentage of Icelanders consume whale meat: in a Gallup poll in 2017, only 1% of Icelanders said they eat whale meat regularly, while 81% said they had never eaten it. The meat is also not healthy – research on whale meat shows the meat is toxic due to the high content of heavy metals, insecticides and pollutants.

Whaling damages Iceland's image

According to a new survey conducted by Maskína for the Icelandic Nature Conservation Association, almost two-thirds of respondents, 64.3%, consider that whaling damages Iceland's reputation.
According to a report by Iceland Naturally, a consumer survey was conducted in the USA in May 2018, where, among other things, it was said that up to 53% were very open to travelling to Iceland and 59% were very interested in learning more about the country.

When asked about attitudes towards whaling, 50% said they were against it. And 49% of respondents said they would boycott products from countries that engage in whaling, as Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, executive director of the Icelandic Tourist Board, has pointed out. He says the survey shows that Icelanders' attitudes are changing. Whale watching is beginning to yield great benefits and is one of the main leisure pursuits in tourism. Jóhannes says that whale watching plays a key role in several regions and has a lot of potential. "We have many clear and documented examples of people in our main market countries, Central Europe and the USA, boycotting both trips to Iceland and Icelandic products because of whaling."

The torturous death of whales violates animal welfare laws

A report sent by the Norwegian authorities to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) showed that almost 20% of whales shot with a penthrite grenade-tipped harpoon had suffered for about 6-25 minutes after the shot was fired until they finally died. This is a violation of Icelands animal welfare laws: Article 21, Killing – Animals must be killed quickly and painlessly and as far as possible without the knowledge of other animals. Avoid causing unnecessary suffering or fear to animals.

There seems to be little or no monitoring of whaling: when Hvalur hf. was hunting whales last time in 2018, they killed at least two hybrid whales and at least 11 pregnant fin whales. (But according to witness Arne Feuerhahn from Hard to Port [Marine Conservation/ Animal Rights Advocacy], there were around twenty pregnant fin whales that were killed.)

When news broke of the killing of hybrid whales in Iceland, it provoked great anger internationally and hordes of tourists began to cancel whale-watching trips. The sale and killing of hybrid whales are prohibited by law because they are extremely rare.

According to Article 2 of the Icelandic Whaling Regulations, it is also prohibited to hunt whale calves, suckling whales and female whales that are accompanied by calves or suckling whales. On the other hand, it is not forbidden to hunt pregnant whales, even though the calf suffers prolonged death in the uterus.

We strongly protested in the summer of 2018 and we will do it again now at the harbour in Reykjavík and in Hvalfjörður until the hunting is stopped. A representative from Hard to Port has come to photograph and record the whaling to inform us, the public, about what is really going on.

Every single whale killed this summer is a disgrace to us as a nation and to you the government. We beg you to stop this brutal killing for good.

The Icelandic Vegan Society (Samtök grænkera á Íslandi)
Association for Animal Welfare in Iceland (Samtök um dýravelferð á Íslandi)
Hard to Port – Marine Conservation | Animal Rights Advocacy