AWI Welcomes Iceland's Decision to Forego Whaling This Summer

Photo from Flickr by NOAA
Photo from Flickr by NOAA

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is relieved to hear that no whales will be killed by Icelandic whalers this summer. In a June television news interview, Ólafur Ólafsson, a whaling vessel captain, said that the two fin whaling vessels operated by Hvalur hf will remain dockside for now, despite the Iceland government’s decision in late February to set a whaling quota of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales annually from 2019 to 2023.

According to Ólafsson, the timing of the government’s quota decision did not allow sufficient time to prepare the whaling vessels for the 2019 season. In the interview, he explained that the vessels are now 60 years old and require both special parts and engineering expertise to fix their steam engines. As the repairs would not have been completed until late August, close to the end of the fin whaling season, the decision was made to keep the vessels in port this year.

However, there is more to the decision than Ólafsson revealed in the interview. It has subsequently come to light that, notwithstanding the new quotas, the government opted not to issue any 2019 whaling permits to Hvalur—the only whaler in Iceland that hunts fin whales. This was confirmed by Ásta Einarsdottir, a lawyer with the Fisheries Ministry in an email sent to the Icelandic organization Jarðarvinir on June 28.

“This is good news for Iceland’s fin whales, and we thank the Icelandic government for its decision not to issue a fin whaling permit. AWI will continue to monitor the situation, as the Hvalur company has temporarily suspended hunting in the past, only to resume,” explained Kate O’Connell, marine wildlife consultant for AWI. “We remain concerned that repair work is continuing on these antiquated vessels and that the hunt might resume next year.”

In addition, Iceland’s minke whalers will forego hunting this summer, as the owner of the whaling vessel Hrafnreyður announced that his company will not whale, despite having received a permit from the government. A second minke whaling vessel, the Rokkarinn, was not issued a permit for 2019.

Iceland’s whaling quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the primary international organization responsible for the conservation and management of whales. Any whaling by Iceland undermines the effectiveness of the commercial whaling moratorium imposed by the IWC in 1986. Furthermore, commercial whaling is inherently cruel, unsustainable and impossible to regulate. AWI continues to advocate for an end to all commercial whaling, including that conducted by Iceland’s unprofitable and unnecessary whaling industry.

Updated on July 2, 2019


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