Campaigners “Don’t Buy” Whaler’s Effort to Distance Icelandic Seafood Giant from Fin Whaling

Photo by Timothy Baker
Photo by Timothy Baker

Brussels, Belgium—The Don’t Buy From Icelandic Whalers campaign, an alliance of 14 conservation and animal protection groups, has reacted with dismay to the news that Icelandic whaling company Hvalur will resume fin whaling and with skepticism to the news that Hvalur has abruptly sold its shares in seafood giant HB Grandi to Brim, another major Icelandic seafood company, on the eve of a major fishing industry exposition.

The sell-off coincides with Hvalur’s announcement that it plans to resume hunting endangered fin whales this summer, following a two-year hiatus. As many as 239 fin whales could be killed. It also comes just days before the 2018 Seafood Expo Global event in Brussels, where major seafood purchasing agreements are signed.

Campaigners regard the share sell-off as a cynical move on the part of Iceland’s sole fin whaler and Hvalur CEO, Kristján Loftsson, to take the heat off HB Grandi at the major seafood event by very publicly cutting ties between the seafood company and the whalers—while Loftsson quietly retains almost a quarter of a million personal shares in HB Grandi and remains as chair of the Grandi board of directors.

A trans-Atlantic campaign to expose the close links between HB Grandi and fin whaling has been hugely successful, with retailers and consumers alike, making clear their opposition to seafood tainted by links to whaling. In previous years, the coalition has used the Expo to highlight which major European seafood buyers have stated their opposition to commercial whaling and confirmed through supply chain audits that they do not source from individuals, vessels or companies linked to whaling.

Clare Perry, ocean campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “It is no coincidence that the sale of Hvalur shares in HB Grandi comes on the heels of the announcement that the killing of endangered fin whales is about to resume, with the highest quotas in years.”

Susan Millward, director of marine animal programs for the Animal Welfare Institute, noted that consumers overwhelmingly reject commercial whaling as a cruel and unnecessary industry: “Public opinion polls have repeatedly shown that the public does not want to buy seafood from companies linked to whaling. HB Grandi has faced a mounting consumer backlash due to its ties to the whaling industry.”

Hvalur recently sparked global outrage when it announced plans to use fin whale meat, blubber and bones in iron supplements and other medicinal or food products. Vanessa Williams-Grey, policy manager for WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, stated: “This really is a paper-thin excuse to keep fin whaling alive. There is no justification for killing an endangered species for any reason, let alone in the name of ‘medicine.’ These whales often die in agony, and for what? A quack supplement with no proven benefit or safety record?”

Taryn Kiekow Heimer, deputy director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “The public needs to know about the links between some seafood companies and the slaughter of whales. We will continue to keep pressure on these companies and shine a light on those who bring harm to the endangered fin whale.”

Due to the size of the transaction and its potential impact on fishing quotas, the sale of Hvalur shares is currently under review by a number of Icelandic government agencies, including the Competition Authority and the Fisheries Directorate.

As many as 191 whales could be killed off western Iceland this summer (a base quota of 161 plus a carryover of 20 percent previously unused quota); an additional quota of 48 fin whales was set for eastern Iceland. These quotas are self-allocated by Iceland and not approved by the International Whaling Commission.

Hvalur held more than 34 percent of shares in HB Grandi, via the Vogun investment company and Fiskiveiðahlutafélagið Venus hf.

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The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) 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. For more information, visit

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Its undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; it works to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and addresses the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. We defend these remarkable creatures against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue.  For more information, visit