Iceland to Ban Commercial Whaling by 2024

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In two years, Iceland will officially hang up its harpoon

The country, one of only three in the world that allows commercial whaling, will end the controversial practice when current quotas expire. 

“There are few justifications to authorize whale hunting beyond 2024,” Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir said Friday in Iceland’s Morgunblaðið newspaper, as CNN reported.

Iceland’s current three-year hunting quota lasts from 2019 to 2023 and permits the hunting of up to 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales, according to an AFP story published by The Guardian. However, so far during this period, hunters have only killed one whale: a minke in 2021. Svavarsdottir said this showed that the practice had little economic benefit. One major reason is that Japan, which was once a major market for Icelandic whale meat, resumed its own commercial whaling in 2019.

“Japan has been the largest buyer of [Icelandic] whale meat, but its consumption is declining year by year. Why should Iceland take the risk of continuing fishing that has not yielded economic benefits, in order to sell a product that is in low demand?” she asked, as CNN reported.

In fact, in some ways whaling’s controversial status has hurt Iceland economically. For example, U.S. retailer Whole Foods ceased promoting Icelandic products for a period in protest.

Conservation groups celebrated the news.

“This is obviously hugely welcome news… and not before time. Icelandic whalers have killed hundreds of whales in recent years, despite almost zero domestic demand,” Vanessa Williams-Grey of Whale and Dolphin Conservation told BBC News.

During Iceland’s last full whaling season, 146 fin whales and six minke whales were killed, according to AFP. 

The International Whaling Commission banned all commercial whaling in 1986, according to CNN. Iceland left the IWC in 1992, rejoined in 2002 while announcing a “reservation” about the ban and then resumed commercial whaling in 2006. Since 1986, More than 1,700 minke, fin and sei whales have been slaughtered in the country. 

Fin whales are the second-largest whale species in the world, according to AFP, while minke whales are one of the smallest. Fin whales are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, while sei whales are endangered and minke whales are considered a species of Least Concern. 

Once Iceland’s decision goes into effect, the only two countries to allow commercial whaling will be Norway and Japan, according to BBC News. 

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