Iceland Announces Unprecedented New Whale Hunt: 150 Fin Whales and 100 Minke Whales

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WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has learned that in his last days in office, outgoing Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinsson has issued a whaling quota for 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales a year, to run from 2009 until 2013.

WDCS calls on the interim government to immediately reject the ex-Minister’s ploy.

WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has learned that in his last days in office, outgoing Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinsson has issued a whaling quota for 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales a year, to run from 2009 until 2013.

Sue Fisher, Policy Director for WDCS North America said: “WDCS assumes that Iceland’s decision to resume large scale commercial whaling is a desperate attempt to secure income from sales to Japan. Given the status of the government, it is not clear if the Fisheries minister even has the authority to do this, nor is it clear that there is a market for whale meat. It is a sad day for whales that they now become the latest potential victims of the world economic crisis and we have not seen a hunt of this scale in the North Atlantic since the 1980s. And there is still a moratorium in place.”

WDCS believes that the decision has to be seen in light of last weekend’s closed-door discussions between Japan and a small group of nations headed by Dr. William Hogarth of the USA, which sought a trade-off between Japan and the rest of the world over its so-called scientific whaling. Press reports suggest that Hogarth proposed to the meeting that Japan give up its own fin whaling operations in Antarctica in return for the right to whale legally in its coastal waters for the first time since commercial whaling was banned in 1986. With Iceland facing bankruptcy and Japan potentially looking for cheap sources of meat to offset any reductions it might volunteer in its Antarctic ‘research’ whaling, the prospect of a ‘deal’ has seemingly emboldened Iceland’s whaling industry.

WDCS fears that Dr. Hogarth has opened a Pandora’s box which now threatens more than two decades of whale protection.

The timing of the announcement, coming as it does after the dissolution of the Icelandic government late Monday calls into question the legality of the whaling quotas and Sue Fisher added, “WDCS calls on the interim government to immediately reject the ex-Minister’s ploy.”

Icelandic whaling and fishing mogul Kristjan Loftsson exported 65 tons of fin whale meat to Japan last spring. He collaborated with Kyodo Senpaku, the company behind Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programme in Antartica that supplies thousands of tonnes of whale meat to Japan’s domestic market. In early December, Loftsson said that he had two whaling boats ready to sail ‘as soon as quotas are issued’. However, it is not clear that there is a sizeable market in Japan.

Minister Gudfinnsson, who has been outspoken in his support of commercial whaling, issued a statement saying that the new quotas have been set according to the scientific recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute (HAFRO) which in 2007 had recommended that as many as 200 fin whales and up to as many as 400 minke whales could be killed a year. On the 23rd of January, the Minke Whalers Association of Iceland had asked Gudfinnsson for a quota of 200 minke whales a year.

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact the WDCS Press Office on 01249 449 534 or 07834 498 277 or visit http://www.wdcs.org.

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Emma Butler


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