AWI Welcomes Halt to Iceland’s Whaling Season Due to Welfare Concerns

Icelandic whaling
Photo by Timothy Baker

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) welcomes Iceland’s decision Monday to stop fin whale hunting until August 31, 2023. Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, based her decision on the results of an Expert Advisory Board on Animal Welfare report released yesterday, which concluded that the commercial killing of whales does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act. Video footage taken on board the Hvalur company whaling vessels in 2022 documented the hunt of 58 of the 148 fin whales killed last year, and found that a staggering 41 percent of the whales did not die instantly.

AWI believes that commercial whaling is inherently cruel, given that even the most advanced whaling methods cannot guarantee an instantaneous death or ensure that struck animals are rendered insensible to pain and distress before they die.

The results of the advisory board’s review supports this belief, as its members noted, inter alia, that hunting large cetaceans is not possible without pursuing the whales for some time, causing fear and stress, and that a quick and painless death cannot be guaranteed. The board further pointed out that it is impossible to identify the gender of a whale prior to harpooning to help determine if the whale is a pregnant or lactating female with a calf by her side. Eleven whales killed in 2022 were pregnant and one was lactating, and the experts noted that orphaned calves have almost no chance to survive.

“This is good news for Iceland’s whales, and we thank Minister Svavarsdóttir for her decision to halt the 2023 whaling season before it began, sparing dozens of majestic fin whales a cruel and prolonged death,” said Kate O’Connell, AWI’s marine life consultant. “We will continue to advocate an end to all commercial whaling, an industry that is cruel and unnecessary, as well as illogical, given the enormous benefits that living whales provide to the health of ocean ecosystems and local coastal communities.”

Media Contact Information

Kim Meneo, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2116

The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.