Iceland resumes whale hunting, endangered Fin Whale killed

"Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of the the company Hvalur hf." Photo: News of Iceland.

Icelandic news outlets are reporting that an Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, "caught its first fin whale yesterday evening," after sailing out yesterday with two boats, both due back in port today.

Fin whales are the second-largest whale, and are classified as an Endangered species.

From News of Iceland:

The whale quota is for 154 fin whales but 20% of unused quota from last season can be added to that number, so possibly a total of 180 whales will be caught. Since 2009 there has been in effect a five year licence to catch the species so that licence expires this year. All of the products from the fin whales will be sent to Japan, except for the fish meal and the fish oil, they are for human consumption. Around 200 people will be employed because of the whale hunting, at land and sea. The products will be processed at three locations in Iceland: Hvalfjord, Hafnarfjord and Akranes.

The Animal Welfare Institute, one of many animal advocacy groups protesting the hunting of this endangered species in Iceland, issued a press release condemning the kill:

Susan Millward, executive director of AWI, said, “Contrary to statements from Icelandic government officials, these majestic animals, second in size only to blue whales, are not ‘Icelandic’; they belong to no one country. Fin whales are highly migratory, endangered, and are protected under a number of international treaties.Today’s killing of an endangered fin whale makes it absolutely clear that years of international diplomatic efforts have failed, and that Iceland is determined to act as a rogue whaling nation, no matter the cost to this species, and to the country’s own tourism and seafood industries.”

From Agence France Press:

Fin whales are the second largest whale species after the blue whale. Iceland also hunts minke whales, a smaller species. That hunt began in May, and so far seven minke whales have been harpooned, whaling officials said.

The International Whaling Commission imposed a global moratorium on whaling in 1986 amid alarm at the declining stock of the marine mammals. Iceland, which resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and Norway are the only two countries still openly practising commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium.

Japan also hunts whales but insists this is only for scientific purposes even if most of the meat ends up on the market for consumption.


  1. I wonder why the Icelandic whalers didn’t bother with the It’s-for-Science veneer.

    1. Actually, in the late 1980s Iceland tried a bogus research program following the establishment of an international moratorium on commercial whaling. Boycotts of Icelandic fish forced Iceland to give up whaling completely — the cessation of whaling lasted for about 14 years. Then Iceland resumed whaling in 2003 with a bogus research scheme and later dropped the research pretext and resumed commercial whaling in 2006.

    2.  Seriously, I wouldn’t have fallen for that reply.  Why is it ‘scientific’ to kill an animal, much less an endangered one?

        To @TheKaz1969:disqus , it’s not ‘job creation’ if you kill off an entire species… it’s called genocide. It’s one thing to farm fish –they populate relatively fast.  Whales’ do not.  And you can’t corral them too easily, I’ve heard.

       When I worked at my university, it was considered bad to have any monies remaining in your account at the end of the fiscal year.  Department heads knew that not spending everything would reduce their funding the next year.  This would result in gobs of wasteful spending just to use every last, red cent.

       Using this ‘administrative logic’ on the whaling industry would result in Iceland being given only 123 whales for this year’s quota –less 20% from the prior year.

      Only 123…  sheesh.

      1. Wouldn’t they get more money from whale tourism? Seems like the expense of hunting them down and killing them is a waste of capital.

        1.  There is MUCH more money to be made in whale tourism. In fact, the tourism industry in Iceland is openly opposed to commercial whaling and very vocal about it.

          Unfortunately, up to 40% of the minke whale meat eaten in Iceland is consumed by curious tourists who fall for the marketing ploy that whale meat is somehow traditional Icelandic fare. The reality is Norwegians introduced modern whaling to Iceland in the late 1800s for the oil.

      2.  And I am sure they don’t visit good old Blighty because we conduct illegal wars, spy on G8 summits, have MPs who steal expenses, have police who take backhanders from the media who spy on anyone illegally, while our banks screw everyone over with Libor crap then continue to bend us over after being found out. He who casts the first stone etc etc.

      3. Same here. Iceland has been doing so many cool things lately, and I really want to go there one day, but this just ruins it all.

        It sends me from “I want to go there” to “We need to boycott them” in just one news item.

    1.   I wonder why the Icelandic whalers didn’t bother with the It’s-for-Science veneer.­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

    2.  I first thought it was a shopped pic of a tiny man on a slab of bacon so you’re not alone.

  2. Hmm, they’re endangered, and their majesty may forever be lost from the tree of life. On the the other hand, what’s the point of an animal if you can’t kill it, butcher it, and use it for the profit of mankind? A real catch-22 for these guys… 

  3. I so want to like Iceland.  But that’s it.  I can’t stand whale killing in the slightest.

    1. I don’t know about Iceland but in the UK a whale is legally (more or less) a fish. A Royal Fish anway.

      1. Wow that is really dumb. Do they consider otters, seals, and penguins to be fish (legally) as well?

          1. And a modern one. Land-dwelling tetrapods are basically fish as well. (Including us.)

  4. WHY? WHY? What is so important about the ability of a few people to get whatever they can out of an animal, that it is more important than trying to preserve an ENTIRE SPECIES from extinction? What could justify the slaughter of an intelligent, docile creature? I thought better of you, Iceland. 

    1. If you are worried the slaughter of an intelligent, docile creatures, then you’re going to have to expand your indictment of Iceland to include just about every nation in the world – the killing of mammals for food is pretty common.  At least whales, by virtue of their size, are ineligible for factory farming.

        1. How so?  If you want to argue against the end of a species, great, I am 100% with you on that.

          But I don’t think that we need to start conflating the protection of endangered species with veganism (or whatever other philosophy lead you to never kill “intelligent, docile creatures”).  They are entirely separate issues

          1.  Wait, that was an anti-veganism comment? It seemed like a pretty good pro-veganism comment.

          2. It’s called concern trolling.  Also derailing.  And the nirvana fallacy.  You’re a veritable meme factory.

          3. Ah Antinous.  There are days when you display an exceptional talent for rubbing me the wrong way.  But alright, I’ll bite.  How is it concern trolling or the nirvana fallacy?

          4. It’s concern trolling because it deflects the discussion away from the topic of the post to a general concern for the welfare of all animals. It’s the nirvana fallacy because it implies that there’s no point in trying to stop whaling until we’ve perfected animal rights.

          5.  And the original was a muddled mess of unrelated issues, harmful to the case of vegans and conservationists alike.

  5. Someone should tell Iceland that the Huldufólk become angered every time they kill a whale.  A few Huldufólk building infestations should cure the problem.

  6. The future of whaling is doomed no matter what. The only question is whether it will end because humans agree to stop hunting whales or because we run out of whales to hunt.

    1. Why must it be either? They are aiming for 170 whales out of at least 40 000, which is hardly extinction-level amounts of pressure.

      1. Fin whales are already facing extinction-level amounts of pressure. Even if we stopped killing them intentionally they’d still be highly vulnerable to habitat loss, collisions with ships, high energy sonar, pollutants and other factors. Adding “hunting” to the mix just makes the situation that much worse.

        And why should any country be allowed to kill 170 endangered whales a year? If the rest of the global community decided that it was OK to consume that many whales per capita they’d be extinct in a heartbeat.

        1. The reason why Fin whales aren’t extinct is because Iceland and other countries controlled the whaling better than other countries. 

    1.  The Icelandic argument is that the status as endangered is mostly because of the population in the antarctic region ; they claim the population in the north atlantic is up around pre-whaling levels. Feel free to push for sactions, but either disprove them (which might be doable; I suspect their numbers are something they’ve come up with on their own), or use a different argument.

      1. That is…a pretty reasonable argument. I’d still rather err on the side of not whaling, but perhaps I’m being a little knee-jerk.

    1. To be fair, the Japanese quotas are around 900 a year which kinda dwarfs Iceland. Besides, Watson has had issues with Europe (specifically Germany). Because shark finning is cool, apparently.

  7. A trade embargo would be a good start. We spent $283.7 million importing their goods last year. I’m guessing the US buys more in goods from Iceland than jobs and revenue from whaling will ever produce.

  8. Classified as endangered but isn’t really endangered. Conservative estimates put the number at between 100.000 to 119.000 animals. That is a population that can well tolerate a modest amount of hunting.  

    Whales live a good live in the wild. They live a much better live than animals raised from birth in feces infested cages. I have never seen a good reason for not hunting them. 

    1. 100,000 individual animals in the entire world isn’t really a lot. That’s about half the population of Akron, Ohio.

      1.  And if 340 people in Akron die every year, thats’s not going to make it a ghost town.

        1. If the whole of humanity was reduced to half the size of Akron then adding an additional 340 murders a year to the natural death rate would be a very grave cause for concern indeed.

  9. The fact is Iceland has absolutely no economic or nutritional need to kill whales. Fin whales are highly migratory animals and do not belong to Iceland or any country. The IUCN has classified fin whales globally as an endangered species because the overall population declined by 70% over the last three generations due to commercial whaling. Whaling has never been a ‘tradition’ in Iceland either. Norwegians introduced modern whaling to Iceland in the late 1800s for the oil. Today, the whalers defy multiple international conventions and kill endangered and protected whales to mass produce dog food and canned meat for export to Japan.

  10. I just got back from studying abroad in Iceland. Ate some whale. Absolutely delicious. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. 

    One whale was taken last year. It’s not a big deal. There’s been a substantial recovery since the 1970’s. 

    Included is a wonderful photo of my dinner including whale, horse, puffin, sea bird, reindeer, and salmon. Also, the prettiest country I’ve been to and definitely the nicest people I’ve ever met.

    1. Absolutely delicious. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

      The flavor of whale meat is not the primary reason most countries on the planet frown upon the practice of killing whales.

      1. You’re hinting vaguely at several explanations. If it’s the threat of extinction, you could grab a minke whale burger tomorrow with little worry. If it’s the “too smart to eat”-part, sure … though in that case it’s weird there’s so much less sympathy for pigs.

        1. You’re hinting vaguely at several explanations.

          That’s because there are several reasons not to eat whales.

        2. “If it’s the “too smart to eat”-part, sure … though in that case it’s weird there’s so much less sympathy for pigs.”
          Yeah, that is weird, but the fact there there is (perhaps wrongly) a lack of sympathy for pigs is in no way an argument that there shouldn’t be sympathy for other intelligent animals, is it?
          I don’t have the science on the actual relative intelligence of pigs vs. various whale species, but most people are under the impression (rightly or not) that whales, dolphins and chimps are our closest relatives in terms of intelligence, and that informs our moral decisions in terms of which animals it’s ok to kill in which situations. If you think pigs ought to be added to that list, go ahead and start that public education campaign – but don’t begrudge the protection of whales just because the protection of other animals may not be complete.

        1. Golly. I wonder if the fact that most countries have decided that whaling is barbaric might have something to do with that.

  11. Grizzly: “I just got back from Yellowstone, where I ate two small humans. Delicious. I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.”

  12. This can’t possibly be the only thing they can harvest for money.  Endangered Mammals?  Really?  

  13. Only, they aren’t endangered. They are on a list of endangered species because of politics and emotional arguments. Lions hardly make it to the threatened list at less then half the global population of fin whales.

    Like I said. No good reason for not whaling. 

    1. So the endangered status of a species is based only on a specific number, one that spans different species?
      I’m intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    1. Don’t worry, I’m sure that plenty of countries who export meat from inhumanely factory farmed animals are excited to make you a deal once the ban is back in effect.

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