Authorities in Iceland have just announced a plan to kill more than 2,000 whales over the next five years. Environmental organizations are understandably outraged as Iceland continues to challenge the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) ban on commercial whaling.
The IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, effectively banning commercial whaling worldwide. Despite the ban and a declining market for whale meat, Iceland has opted to move forward with its plans.
And Iceland isn’t the only country setting its sights, once again, on whales – one of the largest and oldest animals on Earth, whose only predator is humans. In September of last year, the IWC rejected a proposal by Japan to renew commercial whaling. In late December, Japan announced it would withdraw its membership in the IWC and resume whale hunting in its territorial waters.
Similar to limits placed on Japanese whalers that will restrict them to territorial waters, whalers in Iceland will be authorized to “harpoon 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales in Icelandic waters every year until 2023,” according to the Independent.
Icelandic officials have highlighted the supposed economic benefits of whaling, citing a report by an economist with ties to the pro-whaling Independence Party, as well as figures showing that the endangered fin whale population is in recovery. “During the most recent count in 2015, their population in the central North Atlantic was estimated at 37,000, or triple the number from 1987,” a statement read.
According to Kristjan Thor Juliusson, Iceland’s fisheries minster, the limits are based on the latest scientific research and are, in fact, sustainable.
“It is clear that the two species of whale hunted in Iceland, minke whales and fin whales, are in good shape and the hunting that has taken place over the past decades has had no significant negative effects on the stocks.”
Despite the claims of sustainability, environmental activists remain outraged.
According to Vanessa Williams-Grey, campaigner for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation:
“The Icelandic government’s decision to continue to kill whales – amongst the most peaceful and intelligent beings on the planet – is morally repugnant as well as economically bankrupt.”