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Iceland Ends Its Minke Whale Hunt

Animals
A breaching minke whale in Iceland. FEE International / Flickr

No whales will be hunted in Iceland for the second year in a row, and one of the country's two whaling companies is ceasing operations permanently.


"I'm never going to hunt whales again, I'm stopping for good," managing director of company IP-Utgerd Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson told AFP Sunday.

IP-Utgerd specialized in hunting minke whales, which means Iceland's minke whale hunt is officially over. Hvalur, the second Icelandic whaling company that specializes in fin whales, said it was not hunting this year due to difficulties exporting meat and social-distancing measures related to the new coronavirus.

Conservation and animal welfare groups welcomed the news.

"This is tremendous news," Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) CEO Chris Butler-Stroud said in a statement. "It is also a turning point for Iceland and its people and something that WDC has campaigned for for years. An end to minke whaling, and the end in sight for fin whaling, gives Iceland the chance to position itself as the true green island of the North Atlantic."

Humane Society International CEO Kitty Block also called it a "major turning point in the battle against whaling" on her blog.

Hvalur CEO Kristjan Loftsson said the main reason behind the canceled hunt was competition with Japan, which restarted commercial whaling in 2019, as AFP reported. The company sells most of its catch to Japan, but the Japanese market is flooded with local government-subsidized production and also requires more tests for whale meat imported from Iceland, Iceland Review explained.

WDC pointed out that whale meat is actually not a popular Icelandic dish, and only 1.5 percent of Iceland's population buys it regularly, a 2016 survey found.

Loftsson also told The Morning Paper in Iceland that social distancing requirements made the processing of whale meat "almost impossible" since workers need to stand "very closely together," as the Australian Associated Press reported.

However, the CEO did not seem ready to give up on whale meat, saying that research was ongoing into the use of the iron-rich meat to treat anemia patients and into the use of bones and blubber for gelatin.

Iceland has killed more than 1,700 whales since the 1986 ban on commercial whaling, WDC reported.

In 2018, the last year it held a hunt, whalers killed 146 fin whales and six minke whales, the Australian Associated Press reported. The 2020 quota was for 200 of each.

Block, meanwhile, pointed out that the fight against whaling was not over.

"We now turn our focus to the two remaining outliers who continue to defy the global whaling moratorium, killing hundreds of whales each year: Japan and Norway," she wrote. "Their fleets remain active during the pandemic, even as the market for highly-subsidized whale meat is declining rapidly. It is time for these two nations to join Iceland and hang up their harpoons for good."

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