Iceland restarts commercial whaling – tell them not to!

Bad news, kids: Iceland has granted a commercial license to hunt 39 whales – nine of which are endangered fin whales. There’s no economic reason behind this – a recent poll by IFAW shows that just 1.1 % of Icelanders eat whale meat once a week or more, while 82.4% of 16 to 24-year-olds never eat whale meat. The man behind the hunt is one Kristjan Loftsson, a former whaler, who has collected 250 million ISK in shares for renovating his whaling station in Hvalfjordur.
Earlier this year, Norway closed its whale hunt before it had reached half its quota, because they had enough whale meat to supply the what little demand there is. And in Japan, thousands of tonnes of whale meat is stockpiling.
But here’s what you can do…

“I would seriously consider taking a vacation in Iceland rather than somewhere else if the Government of Iceland stopped whaling. I would be willing to receive an email about the options available for Icelandic tourism, an email that would be sent to me if the Government of Iceland ends its whaling program.” Take the pledge: Tell the Icelandic government that you oppose whaling

Greenpeace – Defending our Oceans Icelandic Fisheries Ministry issues permit to kill endangered fin whales »
Making Waves: Iceland permits hunt for endangered whales
Iceland Review: Whaling in Iceland permitted »

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. And what is wrong with that Iceland is going to hunt whale?
    The total stock size of central and north Atlantic minke whales is close to 70,000 animals, of which around 43,600 are in Icelandic coastal waters
    Iceland is going to hunt 30 minke whales each year.
    The number of fin whales in the [area] is estimated at around 25,800 animals.
    Iceland is going to hunt nine fin whales.
    Tell me/us why is it wrong to hunt whale?

  2. The argument that hardly anyone in Iceland eats whale meat is a nonsense, and hardly any young people is a complete distortion.
    Reality – there has been a global commercial whaling moratorium since 1986. Of course Iceland’s stopped eating whale meat – supply was chopped off by the unnecessary moratorium. You can not eat what is not available, even if you have a desire to.
    What do Greenpeace care if someone makes a bad business decision (hypothetically speaking) anyway?
    The ONLY concern here is that the whaling be sustainable, and as the poster above alluded to, this new hunt clearly is sustainable.
    The only way to guarantee that this remains the case in future years as well as to have the IWC implement a Revised management scheme as soon as possible, bring Iceland back on board, and work with the IWC’s Scientific Committee to ensure that catch limits are sustainable.
    Greenpeace is living in a dreamworld if it thinks it can ever win it’s pointless campaign against this activity.

  3. David, that’s a ridiculous statement – what about the whalemeat that was being “scientifically hunted”?
    I don’t think Greenpeace care about bad business decisions – they care about the fact that there’s whales being slaughtered for business reasons only!
    Plus, Iceland is now breaking its international agreements – even the UK fisheries minister has called a meeting with the Icelandic ambassador to discuss flagrant disregard for international agreements. From Iceland and Japan’s recent behaviour at the IWC, it’s no secret that both countries want a full return to commercial whaling.
    Harvest anything:
    If you need whale meat that badly in Iceland, why not buy up some of the uneaten stock that’s languishing in Japanese warehouses? Save you a fortune in fuel for the whaling boats.

  4. BTW, I’ve also heard rumours that this could jeopardise Iceland’s chances of a UN Security Council seat. Doesn’t sound like a very well thought out decision.

  5. Hello David,
    Iceland has been whaling under the guise of scientific research since 2003. Meaning they’ve had plenty of whale meat for the last few years. A glut in fact. They can’t seem to sell it all. Neither can Norway. Neither can Japan.
    The Icelandic whalers try to imply that this whale meat is needed somehow. But the reality is that it is not needed, and beyond a small (but obviously influential) niche market – not even really wanted.

  6. i find the arrogance of those involved in whaling (as i can only assume our commenter david@tokyo is) to be quite breathtaking. your myopic understanding of international politics and the environmental and ecological impact of whaling is beyond belief.
    whales are magnificent, intelligent, beautiful creatures who deserve our respect and protection: not a harpoon in the face simply to suit the local needs of a few, small-minded nations who insist on continuing a practice considered by almost the rest of the world to be barbaric in the extreme.
    if you don’t see the inherent idiocy and evil in slaughtering these creatures, then frankly speaking, you deserve a harpoon in the face yourself.

  7. Iceland was conducting whaling for scientific purposes, not to make profits through lavish whale meat marketing campaigns.
    It’s ridiculous to criticise them on one hand for commercial whaling under the “guise of science”, and then at the same time complain that they aren’t selling the meat.
    Ever heard of a strawman?
    > they care about the fact that there’s whales being slaughtered for business reasons only!
    That’s what is to happen with these commercial permits, but it’s important to acknowledge that animal slaughter for business reasons is a part of western culture. Even in Australia they kill species listed as “Critically Endangered” for profit. Complaining about Iceland killing but 9 Fin whales, from a stock that is actually known to be abundant (read the IWC Scientific Committee report from IWC 58) is plain old double standards.
    > Plus, Iceland is now breaking its international agreements
    So, would you like Iceland to quit the IWC, which was set up originally for the purpose of regulating the whaling industry?
    > From Iceland and Japan’s recent behaviour at the IWC, it’s no secret that both countries want a full return to commercial whaling.
    Exactly right. They are quite open about this desire, yet people like you still make strawman arguments that the research whaling is a front for commercial activity.
    > If you need whale meat that badly in Iceland, why not buy up some of the uneaten stock that’s languishing in Japanese warehouses?
    Languishing? Approximately 2,500 tonnes of the stuff was consumed in the months of July and August 2006 alone. At an annualised pace, this level of consumption would completely outstrip supply, which is only around 6,000 tonnes each year. The supply to the market is actually regulated to ensure that there is supply all round.
    In recent times SUPPLY of by-products has increased due to increases in sample sizes and species taken for research.
    Some more information for you: Whale meat is but 0.5% of the frozen stockpile of marine products in Japan. Tuna is far more popular, yet the stockpile of Tuna is 10 times larger. I can provide you with links to these facts, if you like.
    > whales are magnificent, intelligent, beautiful creatures
    Well, toothed whales are smarter than baleen whales. But yes, they are magnificent.
    > who deserve our respect
    EVERY animal deserves respect.
    > and protection
    No animal has the right to protection – not even humans. Steve Irwin found out as much recently.
    Species are worth conserving because they are inherently valuable to us humans, use of resources is how our civilization developed (for better or worse), but protecting individuals of those species is nonsense because they all die in the end anyway.
    Conservative use of a stock of whales is quite environmentally friendly – certainly better than land-based agriculture which causes huge amounts of pollution. Whale meat is organic.
    > if you don’t see the inherent idiocy and evil in slaughtering these creatures, then frankly speaking, you deserve a harpoon in the face yourself.
    Are you interested in having an adult discussion about this topic?
    > So David – got any good whale meat recipes for us? 😀
    I’ve had whale meat here in Tokyo. I’d recommend steak, tataki-style dishes, but avoid the blubber. That tasted awful.

  8. Oh…. Hi Andrew. I see you are an employee of Greenpeace. So you have a vested interest in Greenpeace’s glamorous propaganda campaigns against sustainable whaling, as they bring in the donations that fund you?
    For the record, I have nothing to do with the whaling industry, although I admit to being highly informed about it.

  9. By the way, if you frame the debate in terms of “need”, you lose.
    You’ll never convince whaling people to stop on those grounds. Australian and US beef exports are not needed. Nor indeed is the Australian supply of farmed southern bluefin tuna to the Japanese market – why is Australia continuing to hunt SBT despite it’s “critically endangered” status?
    Is it OK for Australians to abuse vulnerable marine stocks, but not OK for Iceland, Japan, Norway, the USA, Russia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Indonesia (think I’ve missed some) to sustainably utilise cetacean resources?

  10. David, neither Andrew or I hide the fact that we we’re involve with Greenpeace. I quick look of the about section of will tell you as much.

  11. I’m not actually complaining about anybody not selling meat. I’m complaining about them killing the animals in the first place. I’m merely demonstrating the pointlessness of the killing.
    Also, I never said I wanted Iceland to leave IWC – I would prefer if it honoured the agreements it signed up to. Please don’t accuse me of using a strawman if you’re going to go to the trouble of making one yourself by trying to put words in my mouth.
    There is no strawman argument that I can see about the scientific versus commercial argument. I’m just generally against industrialized killing of whales – which includes commerical whaling. I’m also against so-called scientific whaling, as it’s merely a poor subterfuge for what is *really* commerical whaling. And given this underhanded approach, why trust the word of anyone who wants to enagage in “sustainable” whaling?

  12. david@tokyo. have you done your research on the research done on the killed whales for “scientific research”?
    only one or two out of the hundred or so done are considered valid: peer reviewed and acknowledged.
    and in japan the poor school kids are forced to eat the left over whale meat because it cannot sell. that’s probably where your “market for whale meat” is. maybe you like rubbery, leathery meat. but the younger generation surely don’t.

  13. Dave,
    On Tuna, I’m commenting specifically on Australian’s Southern Bluefin Tuna practices.
    The Australian “Environment Minsiter” Ian Campbell has admitted that he won’t reduce the quota because he wants to protect Aussie fishermen, who he also considers an “endangered species”.
    But there is no need to go exporting this luxury product to Japan – it’s a substitute for whale meat which makes me all the more skeptical.
    I have the impression that Greenpeace has not attacked the minister on this issue because Australia is a Greenpeace stronghold. It’s easier to attack places like Japan and Iceland where animals that Australians don’t profit from are at stake.

  14. David – your impression of Australia as a Greenpeace stronghold is a little blinkered – and would suggest that Greenpeace doesn’t do any real work in Australia, which certainly isn’t the case.
    If you read back through other issues that Greenpeace have worked on Australia (I don’t claim to be an expert on Australian environmental issues, I’ve never even been there) doesn’t seem to have any qualms about challenging the Australian government – whether is on forestry, fisheries, climate or whatever.
    I’ll see what I can find out about your claims.
    Mind you, the protectionist stance of Ian Campbell towards the fishing lobby is nothing new – and is similar (if a little more melodramatic) than what goes on here in my own country (Ireland).

  15. David –
    I disagree with a lot of what you’ve said here. In fact, I have long since resigned myself to the fact that you and I are not going to agree at all on the whaling issue. (David and I have had many similar discussions on this Greenpeace weblog.)
    But I think I will give it one more try, because you say a few things I do agree with. For example, I agree there are a lot of problems facing the world, and specifically the oceans, besides whaling. Tuna, for example, is massively overfished by quite a few countries (although you choose to focus on Australia, there are worse).
    Greenpeace also works on the issue of tuna, among other things. Our ship, the Esperanza, has been in the Pacific for the past couple months helping authorities enforce the rules in tuna fisheries there.
    What does all this have to do with Iceland and whaling? Well, cod is also massively overfished. And I know cod is important to Icelanders. More important that whales even, I suspect. And I will tell you something I told Icelanders when I was there on the Rainbow Warrior…
    We need Iceland to be a strong voice for better fisheries management. But as long as Iceland is whaling, it is easy for other countries (like Spain, where off shore whaling was arguably invented) to discredit what Iceland has to say about fisheries conservation.
    So you want to shift the focus to talking about fish stocks? Great. I do too. But I won’t do it at the expense of the whales. And if full scale commercial whaling resumes that’s what is going to happen.

  16. Dave,
    What I am really trying to highlight with my bleeting on about Australia is that I believe the government is opposed to whaling, not because it has a wonderful super-duper conservationist government, but just because it makes sense politically in Australia to do so.
    And I think that this is really really bad for conservation – because it’s a major distraction from real conservation issues.
    We see Australia’s true colours on issues where Australians are actually affected, such as SBT fishing.
    It’s very easy to oppose whaling and appear “Green” to one’s voters, but there is hardly any fuss at all about SBT issue, by comparison.
    Serious question: Reviewing the whaling situation and the SBT situation, is it not clear that SBT is by far a much more serious and pressing concern?
    Of course, it’s important that whaling be sustainable as well, but at the current time it’s really inconceivable that whaling could be a major conservation problem in the near future. On the other hand, people are actually putting time frames on the SBT being wiped out completely if reductions in quotas are not undertaken (and Japan deserves Greenpeace’s congratulations for this – I haven’t seen any though).
    > Mind you, the protectionist stance of Ian Campbell towards the fishing lobby is nothing new
    Quite. But really, we know that politicians are scum. They will do what they need to do to maintain optimum popularity. Those that are leading the debate are Greenpeace and other orgs. who your lay people on the street look to for guidance about these issues. It’s too much for everyone to be well-informed. With regards to the whaling issue at least, I feel that Greenpeace is really letting the public down, and letting true conservation efforts down. Attacking Australia on the SBT issue may upset fishermen there, but what is more important? Future generations ability to use the SBT resource, or today’s generation?
    Obviously, the politicians choose today’s generation. Greenpeace must choose the other.

  17. Dave,
    I also saw the article about whaling “affecting tourism”.
    I think the headline was overblown:
    “Already today a few customers called us to see if this was really true. There are enough alternative destinations to go to.”
    A few customers is not a great deal. As the Iceland government noted, they haven’t seen any tourism crunch since introducing scientific whaling, and given that the western public generally believes that scientific whaling is a front for commercial whaling, I don’t see why the impact of this won’t be limited, particularly over the medium term.

  18. Andrew,
    Fantastic! I think it is great if you and I can discuss what we both see as real issues.
    You’re right – I am focussing on Australia more to illustrate what I believe is gross hypocrisy. To be honest, I think the SBT should be OK and while the species is “critically endangered”, fisheries scientists such as Dr Doug Butterworth who I have great respect for have questioned the appropriateness of the IUCN assessment criteria for fish stocks.
    What I really want to see is all countries acting on firm conservation principles. Australia clearly fails on this count.
    > Greenpeace also works on the issue of tuna, among other things.
    And this is great – I just wish it were Greenpeace’s flagship campaign, not it’s chasing Japanese whalers around the Southern Ocean. From a conservation perspective, I just think the priorities are completely out of whack.
    That statement you heard about Iceland and fisheries leadership, I understand.
    The problem I see with it though, is that it doesn’t appear to me to be based on fair reasoning.
    Iceland is permitting a very small number of whales to be killed for purely commercial purposes. More whales are killed in Alaska each year than the Iceland permits will allow.
    From a conservation perspective, I can’t accept this as a grounds for criticising Iceland, even if many people in the west believe that whaling is not environmentally friendly (by definition). Of course, it wasn’t friendly for a long time, but I believe the situation is incredibly different today.
    > But I won’t do it at the expense of the whales.
    Unfortunately, this is why I am skeptical about Greenpeace’s motives. Not so much at the grass roots level – more at the upper management level, where the campaign decisions are made.
    > And if full scale commercial whaling resumes that’s what is going to happen.
    I don’t see the huge fear about “full scale” (whatever that means today) commercial whaling.
    Greenpeace themselves consistently complain that whale meat is not being sold.
    I live here in Japan. People aren’t rapacious to eat whale meat. But if they want to eat it, and it’s available, they’ll buy it. I was chatting with local restaurant owners down the road from me (not the place where whale meat is sold, another one), and they agree that “whaling and any fishing is fine so long as you don’t overhunt”.
    Japanese people agree on this basic fundamental about conservation. The only issue that I see is policing the industry sufficiently – some bad egg operators may indeed wish to try to take more than their quota. This is a risk. But humans take risks all the time. Every time one rides one’s bicycle one run’s the risk of dying in a road accident. If a sufficient regulatory system is in place to minimise the risk of illegal hunting overdepleting a whale stock, then why should this not be allowed?
    I think to say that no regulatory system would be sufficient (which seems to be Greenpeace’s policy) is completely unpragmatic, and unfair to whaling peoples.

  19. Hi David – small point, on the whaling vs. Tuna debate. I do feel that you’re incorrect when you say that whaling is the Greenpeace flagship campaign. If we have one at all, it’s Defending our Oceans.
    Andrew was on board the Esperanza for the first leg – Nov 2005-Feb 2006. That first leg was on whaling.
    I joined for the second leg – Cape town to the Canary Islands, working in illegal and unreported fishing off West Africa.
    The third leg was to the Azores, dealing with the marine life there in general, which was more research-based.
    Then it was into the Mediterranean, working on the Tuna problems there, followed by a passage through the red sea and checking the coral situation.
    By India, the Esperanza was working on Marine reserves, by the Phillipines, it was pollution, and recently it’s been working on tuna again, this time in the Pacific.
    That’s just one ship, and that’s just the last 11 months!
    In that time, the Rainbow Warrior and Arctic Sunrise have been working on a load of other campaigns. The Arctic Sunrise was also in the Southern Ocean, for instance, and
    was recently working in the Baltic on illegal cod fishing. The Rainbow Warrior – when it wasn’t delivering medical to Beirut, was working in the Mediterranean, on marine reserves and tuna.
    And that’s just the sea-based ship campaigns! I’m not even getting into the nuclear, forests, peace and disarmament, GM, and toxics campaigns.
    I’m glad I had a cup of coffee before I launched into that. And yes, it *is* Fair Trade.

  20. Ah feck how’d I miss this one the first time round.
    I had an idea about herding whales with those electronic collars like dogs have that give them a shock when they stray off. might give it a more detailed proposal at some stage.
    fair play to Iceland for preserving an important part of its heritage.

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