After a tumultuous start of the year that saw Japan announce they will once again start commercial whaling, Iceland has announced plans to kill more than 2,000 whales over a five-year period even though demand for whale meat and public support has been rapidly falling.
The announcement explains that whalers will be authorized to harpoon 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales in Icelandic waters every year until 2023, arguing that these numbers are sustainable.
This only adds to the already bad press the nation has received after it was discovered that Icelandic whalers killed two rare blue/fin whale hybrids. Environmental groups have quickly called out the nation on the decisions as commercial whaling has been banned since the 1980s under the International Whaling Commission due to dwindling stocks.
According to the International Whaling Commission website, “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.”
Not only are environmental groups upset, it is expected that Iceland’s tourism industry will be hit very hard as tourists will not travel to the nation due to the whaling industry.
The Icelandic Travel Industry Association issued a statement Friday saying the government was damaging the nation’s “great interests” and the country’s reputation to benefit a small whaling sector that is struggling to sell its products.
“Their market for whale meat is Japan, Norway and the Republic of Palau,” the tourism statement said. “Our market is the entire globe.”
Iceland’s Statistics Agency says tourism accounts for 8.6 percent of Iceland’s economic production. In 2016, tourism produced more revenue than Iceland’s fishing industry for the first time.
A report from the University of Iceland said whale watching contributed $13.4 million to the economy, while the whale hunting company Hval hf. Contributed $8.4 million. According to the report, more people are employed in whale watching than in whaling, but wages are higher in whale hunting.
While Iceland is fully prepared to move forward, environmental groups will be on the front lines in doing anything and everything that they can to stop the slaughter of the marine mammals.