Whaling in Iceland

Whaling in Iceland

Iceland has a long tradition of subsistence whaling; spear-drift whaling was practised from the 12th century or earlier and continued in a relic form until the late 19th century. The early reliance on whales is reflected in the Icelandic language: "hvalreki" is the word for both "beached whale" and "jackpot". [cite web | url = http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-whale21oct21,0,3701388.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials | title = Saving the Whales, Again | publisher = Los Angeles Times | date = 2006-10-21 | accessdate = 2006-12-04]

Whaling history

Modern whaling in Iceland began in 1883, although spear-drift whaling had been practised from the 12th century or earlier. By 1915, 17,000 whales had been taken from Icelandic waters, mostly due to excessive whaling by Norwegian fishermen. The Icelandic Government banned whaling in its waters to allow time for population recovery, but the law was repealed in 1928.

By 1935, an Icelandic company renewed whaling operations. They hunted mostly Sei, Fin, and Minke Whales. In the early years of this operation, Blue, Sperm, and Humpback Whales were also hunted, but this was soon prohibited due to decimated numbers. Between 1935 and 1985, Icelandic whalers killed around 20,000 animals in total. Because of this history Icelanders have been able to successfully portray their hunting of whales as selfsustaining and responsible, just as their fishing policy is today. At the same time it is often pointed out by Icelanders that the nations that are mostly responsible for decimating the whale stocks in the oceans and are now ardent opposers of any hunting, sustainable or not, are often in bad shape with their current fishing policies, which is often unsustainable and with fish stocks in dire situations.

International Whaling Commission

Beginning in 1990, Iceland abided by the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling.

Unlike Norway, Iceland did not take a reservation against the IWC moratorium, which came into force in 1986. Between 1986 and 1989 around 60-80 Fin Whales and a smaller number of Sei Whales (both listed as Endangered) were taken each year under a scientific permit. However, under strong pressure from anti-whaling countries, viewing scientific whaling as a circumvention of the moratorium, Iceland ceased whaling altogether in 1989. Following the 1991 refusal of the IWC to accept its Scientific Committee's recommendation to allow sustainable commercial whaling, Iceland left the IWC in 1992.

Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002 with a reservation to the moratorium. This reservation is not recognized by a number of anti-whaling countriesFact|date=February 2007. The issue is a fine point of international law. Countries are allowed to take reservations to international treaties or agreements, in which they simply state that they disagree with a particular point and refuse to abide by it. However, the reservation must be lodged as the international treaty, or in this case moratorium, comes into effect. Norway, a fellow member of the IWC, promptly stated its reservation, and its continued whaling is considered proper under international law. In contrast, from 1986 to 1991 Iceland did not state a reservation to the moratorium. After leaving the IWC, it then rejoined with a reservation, taking the position that the departure and re-entry had "reset" its international obligations under the IWC and that it could take a reservation, as if it were the first time it was affected by the moratorium. Opponents of whaling argue that legal reservations do not work this way and that Iceland cannot take a reservation once it has accepted it.Fact|date=February 2007

As a requisite for readmission to the IWC, Iceland had also pledged to wait until 2006 before resuming commercial whaling.

In 2003, Iceland resumed scientific whaling. Iceland presented a feasibility study to the 2003 IWC meeting to take 100 Minke, 100 Fin, and 50 Sei in each of 2003 and 2004. The primary aim of the study was to deepen the understanding of fish-whale interactions; the strongest advocates for a resumed hunt are fisherman concerned that whales are taking too many fish. The hunt was supported by three-quarters of the Icelandic population. Amid concern from the IWC Scientific Committee about the value of the research and its relevance to IWC objectives, no decision on the proposal was reached. However under the terms of the convention the Icelandic government issued permits for a scientific catch. In 2003, Iceland took 36 minke whales from a quota of 38. In 2004, it took 25 whales (the full quota). In 2005, the government issued a permit for a third successive year, allowing whalers to take up to 39 whales. As with other countries' scientific whaling claims, Iceland's was disputed widely by environmental non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace. Their claims have though been widely ridiculed at least in Iceland, because it is impossible to properly establish the eating habits of whales without looking into their stomach content. Groups like Greenpeace are widely seen as public enemy number one in Iceland, as one such, the Sea Shepherd, was found responsible for the only terrorist attack ever in the country.

Resumed commercial whaling in 2006

In October 2006, the Icelandic government issued licenses for a commercial whale hunt in addition to the continuing scientific program. [cite web | url=http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2006/10/17/whaling_ani.html?category=animals&guid=20061017170030&dcitc=w19-506-ak-0001 | title="Iceland Resumes Commercial Whaling" | publisher=Discovery.com News | date=2006-10-17 | accessdate = 2006-10-17] Iceland had pledged not to resume commercial whaling until 2006 when presumably talks about sustainable whaling would be completed. The talks had not come to a resolution thereafter, and are instead stalling due to the differences between those who want to resume whaling and those who do not.

Over the twelve-month period ending in August 2007, Icelandic whalers have been authorized by the Icelandic government to hunt and sell 30 Minke Whales and 9 Fin Whales. [cite web | url = http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2006-10-17T142254Z_01_L17824455_RTRUKOC_0_US-ENVIRONMENT-WHALING.xml | title = Quota set on whaling | date = 2006-10-17 | publisher = Reuters | accessdate = 2006-12-04] Iceland resumed commercial whaling on 21 October 2006 after Icelandic whalers caught a Fin Whale. [cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6074230.stm | title = Iceland 'breaks ban on whaling' | publisher = BBC News | date = 2006-10-22 | accessdate = 2006-12-04] Iceland has an exemption to the moratorium through the reservation made in 2002.

25 nations delivered a formal diplomatic protest (called a "demarche") to the Icelandic government on 1 November 2006 concerning resumed commercial whaling. The protest was led by the UK and signed by nations including the US, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Finland and Sweden [cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6107074.stm | title = Iceland rapped over whale hunting | publisher = BBC News | accessdate = 2006-11-02 | date = 2006-11-01] .

Kristján Loftsson, owner of the whaling company Hvalur (Icelandic for "Whale") which had to diversify from its main industry for the past 20 years, has stated that there is no reason they can't continue hunting whales for eternity by sustainable management of the hunting. The company's whaling boat, Hvalur 9, has caught seven Fin Whales since the government authorization, but has ceased hunting for the year due to bad weather and little daylight. Loftsson also indicated that he planned to export the meat to Japan as neither Iceland or Japan are subject to a trade ban, although Claire Sterling, of the International fund for Animal Welfare, said that Japan has officially stated that it would not be buying Icelandic whale meat. [cite web | url = http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/06/wiceland06.xml | title = Whaling fleet boss to defy ban and sell to Japanese | date = 2006-11-06 | accessdate = 2006-11-06 | author = Charles Clover | publisher = Telegraph.co.uk ] As Japan does not have any laws against such import it will not hinder such an import. As of 1-21-07 Hvalur hf. has not sold or exported any of the Fin whale meat that it caught in September - October 2006, awaiting results from toxicology tests.

Commercial whaling in 2008

A BBC report noted that Iceland is likely to licence a commercial hunt beginning in May 2008. The minke catch in 2006 and 2007 was all sold. " the minke whaling industry says it has sold all the meat from the last two years' catch, which shows there is an appetite for whale products. " The head of the Icelandic minke whaling association is hoping for a quota of around 100 minkies. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7294564.stm]

Icelandic whaling since the suspension of commercial whaling


Although fin whales are considered endangered on a worldwide basis, that is not the case in Icelandic waters. [cite web | url = http://iwcoffice.org/conservation/iceland.htm | title = Iceland and Commercial Whaling | publisher = International Whaling Commission | accessdate = 2006-12-04] Their numbers in the ocean around the island have grown to a stable level. The Fin Whale population in the North Atlantic was estimated to be 23,000 in 2001, and the estimated population of Minke Whales in the North Atlantic in 2001 was said to be around 67,000 in the North Atlantic central stock region with 44,000 in Icelandic waters. According to the Icelandic Marine Research Institute the taking of up to 150 Fin Whales and up to 400 Minke Whales a year in the Icelandic resources jurisdiction is sustainable. [cite web | url = http://www.hafro.is/undir_eng.php?ID=26&REF=4 | title = State of marine stocks in Icelandic waters | publisher = The Icelandic Marine Research Institute | accessdate = 2006-10-23] The Icelandic government has allowed the taking of 9 Fin Whales (6% of the number approved by the institute) and 30 Minke Whales (7.5%) until the end of August 2007.

Notes and references

ee also

External links

* [http://www.iwcoffice.org/conservation/permits.htm Scientific Permit Whaling] at the IWC homepage
* [http://iwcoffice.org/conservation/iceland.htm#notes Comments from IWC regarding the Commercial whaling of Iceland]
* [http://www.iwcoffice.org/_documents/table_permit.htm International Whaling Commission Catches table]
* [http://www.hafro.is/index_eng.php The Icelandic Marine Research Institute's web site]

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