Iceland resumes whaling despite protests Published: 08 May, 2007
DESPITE international protests and several calls for a fish boycott, Iceland has this week resumed the hunt for minke whales.
The commercial capture of minkes began last Friday, but has now been put on hold until scientific whaling, which got under way this week, is completed – probably in June.
The Icelandic government has stipulated a total minke catch quota of 74 whales – 38 allocated to commercial hunters while scientists have permission to kill up to 36. The minke whale meat is sent for processing for the domestic market in Iceland and elsewhere.
Gunnar Bergmann, leader of the Union of Minke Whale Hunters said: Scientific whaling will resume May 8 and we cant mix those two together. According to Mr Bergmann, three boats will hunt minkes for scientific purposes until June 25, during which 31 whales are scheduled to be caught. Five additional minkes are scheduled to be caught in September. Commercial hunters take over after June 25 and have until the end of August to complete their quota.
Mr Bergmann said: It is possible that we may not be able finish our quota if things do not go to plan during that time. The minke whale meat is intended for the domestic market.
He added: If the sale of whale products proves successful we can hardly be prohibited from hunting what the Marine Research Institute suggests.” The Iceland Marine Research Institute estimates that about 200 to 400 minke whales in Icelandic waters can be hunted every year without endangering the species.
Although Icelanders are generally less squeamish about whaling than most people in the UK or Europe generally, not everyone in that country supports hunting. A recent opinion poll showed that 40 per cent of those interviewed were unhappy with the decision to resume commercial whaling, but 42 per cent had no objection. Around 18 per cent were undecided.
This contrasts with a poll conducted on behalf of the Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners a year ago which stated that 75 per cent approved of commercial whaling. Around 11.5 per cent were against it while 15.4 per cent were undecided.
The Icelandic move has certainly provoked protest in Britain. Last month the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society urged food shoppers in the UK to boycott Icelandic fish products and it singled out Grandi hf, Iceland’s largest fishing company and a major exporter of cod and haddock to the Humber, as the main ‘offender’ .
The society’s chief executive, Chris Butler Stroud said: “We are sure that most people would be horrified if they knew they were putting money into the pockets of whalers.” According to the organisation over 80 per cent of Britons are against whaling. And in February Malcolm Walker, chief executive of the Iceland frozen food supermarket chain said he had received hundreds of letters from angry whaling opponents.
Mr Walker said he was an opponent of whaling himself as was the store chain’s parent company, the Baugur Group. He also wrote to the Icelandic premier expressing his company’s concerns. However, despite protests from environmental pressure groups there has been little evidence that UK shoppers are supporting their calls by turning away from buying fish, Icelandic or otherwise.
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