Japan and Iceland Approve Fin Whale Hunts, Despite Record Low Demand for Whale Meat

Fin whale
Photo by iStock

Washington, DC—Today, Japan and Iceland decided to allow each country’s last remaining whale companies to hunt fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet.

Adopting the recommendations of a pro-whaling committee, Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced that it will allow Kyodo Senpaku of Tokyo to kill as many as 59 fin whales this year in the North Pacific, in addition to its existing annual quota of 25 sei whales, 150 Bryde’s whales, and 142 minke whales.

“The decision to allow the killing of fin whales is a welfare and conservation disaster, with serious diplomatic and legal implications for Japan,” said Sue Fisher, senior policy advisor for the Marine Wildlife Program at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “It perpetuates a vicious economic cycle that Japan needs to break: Kyodo Senpaku can’t sell the whale meat it already has. Nevertheless, the company keeps asking the government for higher quotas and more financial support in hopes that miraculously rebounding meat sales will offset its mounting debts.”

In Iceland, Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdótti, the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, issued a commercial whaling permit to Hvalur hf whaling company to kill up to 128 fin whales.

“AWI is deeply disappointed in the Icelandic government’s decision to allow commercial fin whaling to continue,” said Kate O’Connell, senior policy consultant for AWI’s Marine Wildlife Program. “This determination condemns more than 100 whales to a cruel, unnecessary death, despite overwhelming video evidence from Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority that whaling cannot be conducted in a humane manner.”

Hvalur hf. killed 148 fin whales in 2022 and 24 fin whales, including a pregnant female, last year. The company’s whaling arm has operated at a loss for years given the lack of demand for whale products both domestically and in Japan, where 2,000 tons of unsold Icelandic fin whale meat continue to languish in freezer storage.

Japan’s hunt will be conducted by the Kangei Maru, Kyodo Senpaku’s new 7.5 billion yen ($47 million) factory ship. Kyodo Senpaku relied on government loans to finance the ship, and will repay them over the next 20 years.

“Kyodo Senpaku now faces a financial time bomb of ongoing storage costs for its massive glut of whale meat,” Fisher said, “along with public and private loan repayments associated with purchasing whale meat from Iceland (approximately 3 billion yen) and building the new mothership (7.5 billion yen). Slaughtering fin whales now makes no financial sense. The Japanese government failed to act responsibly and the whales will pay the price.”

Both Japan’s and Iceland’s whaling quotas are not approved by the International Whaling Commission, the global organization responsible for the conservation of whales and management of whaling.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) 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, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.