Iceland Delays Fin Whale Hunt But For How Long?WDCS has learned that Iceland's fin whale hunt is to be postponed indefinitely and a number of workers at the Hvalur whaling company will lose their jobs in a move which reflects the slow demise of the industry in Iceland, but not an end to whaling there.
According to reports emerging from Iceland, Kristjan Loftsson, CEO of the Hvalur made the announcement to a group of about 30 staff yesterday following his return from a recent visit to Japan.
Gunnlaugur Fjólar Gunnlaugsson, Hvalur's foreman, told Icelandic news media in an interview that a decision on whether to go ahead with the hunt in August or September would be made later this summer.
Loftsson indicated that two of the whale processing companies in Japan with which he works had sustained major damage following the recent earthquake there. In addition, the market has also collapsed and therefore, according to the company, it would not be feasible to start hunting for the near future. The fin whaling season opened on June 26th in 2010.
Iceland's whale meat sales to Japan had been facing a tough time since exports began in 2008, and had fallen short of the profits predicted. Quality issues with the Icelandic whale meat, and a waning interest in the product among Japanese consumers meant that prices for Icelandic fin whale meat were set at low rates, described as a "loss leader" by the industry in its effort to try and build a market in Japan.
In the past two years, Hvalur killed 273 endangered fin whales, earning the censure of both governments and environmental groups.
Kate O'Connell, WDCS anti-whaling campaigner said, "It is too soon to claim victory, and Iceland's whales still face the threat of harpoons. In 2007, Iceland declared that it was ending commercial whaling, only to come back with a vengeance in 2009, targeting more whales and increasing exports. We must remain vigilant, and not let the whalers lull the world into a false sense that all is well."
WDCS calls on the public to become even more engaged and to send the clear signal to Iceland's whaling and fishing communities that this so-called temporary halt isn't enough. All whaling and trade in whale products must be officially banned.
WDCS began a wide-ranging consumer campaign against Iceland in 2010, advising buyers, "Don't buy your fish from whalers". A significant number of retailers and supermarkets have joined the campaign, which has spread from the UK to the US and Europe.
Among the supporters is lead UK seafood supplier Findus, which had agreed to mark the Hvalur-linked Icelandic seafood company HB Grandi as unacceptable across its supply chain.
Mike Mitchell, current CSR Director at Youngs Seafood Ltd UK. (part of Findus Group) had told WDCS that "We understand that many people in the UK have serious concerns over the practice of commercial whaling. We make every effort to ensure that our commercial activities do not directly support businesses which carry out or profit from commercial whaling activities."
WDCS has also been leading efforts in the US to urge the Obama Administration to impose sanctions on Iceland for its whaling and trade in whale products in defiance of IWC and CITES bans. For more on WDCS efforts to shut down Iceland's whaling, and for how you can help, please visit our pages on whaling.