Iceland Resumes Killing of Endangered Fin Whales

Washington, DC—Icelandic media are reporting that the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf killed an endangered fin whale Monday in defiance of the international ban on commercial whaling. The whale was killed some 150 nautical miles off Iceland’s west coast, and was most likely landed at the company’s whaling station in Hvalfjörður, less than an hour’s drive north of Reykjavik.

The fin whale hunt is the first in two years and took place just two weeks after a coalition of groups—including the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Environmental Investigation Agency, Iruka & Kujira [Dolphin & Whale] Action Network, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation—revealed that whale products from Hvalur hf were ending up as dog treats in Japan, sparking international outcry.

In response to the killing, 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.”

Millward continued, “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.”

The killed fin whale will be processed at the Hvalfjörður whaling station, with the blubber and offal rendered into oil. The approximately 15 tons of meat from the giant animal, which can weight between 40-70 tons, will then be dispatched for further cutting, packing and freezing to facilities owned by Hvalur hf.

One of the sites likely to be used is a building that belongs to Hvalur-subsidiary HB Grandi, Iceland’s leading seafood company. Fin whale meat from the previous commercial whale hunts in 2006, 2009 and 2010 was cut and boxed there, prior to being shipped to Japan.

“Just as the whalers have trained their sights on these fin whales, international consumers will be taking a closer look at where their seafood originates,” Millward added. “HB Grandi and other Icelandic companies linked to Iceland’s whaling interests will find themselves in the crosshairs of an international backlash against this cruel and unnecessary industry.”

Notes for editors:

  • The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986.  Iceland, a major commercial whaling nation, left the IWC in 1991 in protest over the decision, but rejoined in 2001 with a controversial “reservation” exempting it from the ban. It resumed so-called scientific whaling in 2003, and commercial whaling under its reservation in 2006.
  • Since 2003, Iceland has killed 496 minke whales and 280 endangered fin whales, and exported over 2,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan. Although Hvalur hf, Iceland’s fin whaling company, did not hunt fin whales in 2011 and 2012, the head of the company announced recently that it will kill up to 184 of these whales this summer, starting in June. Fin whales are categorized as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  •  In 2011, the US Department of Commerce certified under the “Pelly Amendment” that Iceland’s whaling undermined the effectiveness of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. President Obama concurred and issued directives intended to compel Iceland to stop whaling and cease trade in whale products. The resumption of fin whaling this month indicates that the presidential directives have not achieved this objective, and non-governmental organizations representing tens of millions of US citizens are demanding that the federal government increase and expand efforts to force Iceland to cease commercial whaling and trade in whale products.
  • On May 29, 2013, the Animal Welfare Institute, Environmental Investigation Agency, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Iruka & Kujira [Dolphin & Whale] Action Network welcomed Japanese company Michinoku Farms’ decision to stop selling pet treats made from endangered fin whales. The four organizations earlier expressed dismay that Hvalur hf was exporting fin whale meat to Japan, where it was being manufactured into dog snacks.

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