Iceland Govt Greenlights Killing Of 2,000 Whales Over The Next Five Years For Commercial Use

Iceland Govt Greenlights Killing Of 2,000 Whales Over The Next Five Years For Commercial Use

Iceland has long faced criticism for turning a blind eye towards whale killing. The country sparked fresh controversy when it announced that it would permit up to 2,000 whales to be killed in the next 5 years.

Ever so often a new species is declared extinct by scientists. Despite environmental activists actively working for the conservation of every creature on this planet, it appears as though the seriousness of the matter does not get through to many people. Iceland is one such country which has faced a lot of criticism for its policy on whale killing for commercial use. Though many species of whales are already on the brink of extinction, the nation has turned a blind eye towards the concerning issue. The country sparked a flurry of fresh criticism when, in late February, it announced that it would allow up to 2,000 whales to be killed over the next five years.


According to a CNN report, last month the Iceland government announced that it would permit a maximum of 2,000 whales to be killed in the period up to 2023. The government's decision came as a shock to many as the country only has two whaling companies and has long faced flack for its nonchalant attitude towards the industry. Conservationists claim the small industry is inhumane and has minimal economic benefits as well as blatantly defying the international ban on whale hunting and killing. It is surprising that the government would greenlight the killing of more whales under these circumstances.


Despite being under fire for its policy on whale killing, a statement by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture released on February 19, reportedly said that up to 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales could be killed each year between 2018 and 2025. Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Iceland's Fisheries Minister defended the government's decision claiming that the new whale quotas are sustainable and that the numbers were based on extensive research conducted by the country's Marine Research Institute and the University of Iceland.


A ministry spokesperson said in a statement, "Whaling in Icelandic waters is only directed at abundant whale stocks, North Atlantic common minke whales and fin whales, it is science-based, sustainable, strictly managed and in accordance with international law." Despite authorities defending the country's questionable decision on whale killing, they have failed to convince activists and conservationists who disagree with the research on which the Fisheries Ministry has based its quotas. They argue that the decision doesn't make sense since whale meat is mainly consumed only by tourists. 


The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) spokesman Chris Butler-Stroud said, "This is a country that's embraced whale watching and has a different relationship with whales now. The reality is, the whale meat that's being consumed there is mostly by tourists, unfortunately. ... If it was down to local consumption, this probably would be dead in the water." A report from the University of Iceland is said to have revealed that while whale watching contributed $13.4 million to the economy, the whale hunting company Hval hf. has only contributed $8.4 million.


The report apparently claims that though more people find employment opportunities in whale watching, whale hunters benefit from better wages as compared to the former. Additionally, the report stated, "Icelanders have managed whaling in a responsible manner," so far. However, the WDC opposes the findings of the report arguing that rather than leaning on its own science, the country needs to heed the international outrage against whaling, and urges Iceland to listen to the worldwide calls to stop whaling.


Commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. However, despite being a member of the commission, Iceland has time and again sparked controversy by permitting the hunting of whales within its own quotas. In 2018, the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf was condemned worldwide for reportedly killing a blue whale, a species protected under international law. The International Whaling Commission website states, "It is well known that overexploitation by the whaling industry led to serious declines in many of the world's populations of whales... Many are now in the process of recovering, although not all."


Apart from Iceland, Japan has also long been criticized for finding a loophole in the whale killing ban which allows the nation to kill whales for scientific purposes. Speaking on the topic of whale killing, Butler-Stroud added that the marine mammals only stay alive for a "considerable time" before they are harpooned. "It's a horrendous way to kill an animal. You have to have a good justification to kill an animal in this way, not just feeding tourists and exporting to the Japanese market. I really don't see that justifying Iceland to go off and kill whales at this time," he said. 


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