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Whaling to resume in Iceland after temporary ban

August 31, 2023

The Icelandic government said whalers will face stricter conditions and increased supervision. Animal welfare activists said Iceland missed an opportunity to "do the right thing."

The harpoon ship Hvalur 9 is seen transporting two Fin whales on Hvalfjordur fjord near the village of Midsandur, Iceland, in August 2022
Annual quotas in Iceland authorize the killing of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whalesImage: Sergei Gapon/AA/picture alliance

The hunting of whales off Iceland can resume after the government agreed to let the temporary ban expire on Thursday.

Hunting was temporarily banned in June amid animal welfare concerns.

"Whaling can resume tomorrow... (with) detailed and stricter requirements for hunting equipment and hunting methods, as well as increased supervision," the fisheries ministry said.

Animal protection charity Humane Society International said it was "a devastating and inexplicable decision" and a rejection of an opportunity to "do the right thing."

Calls for a permanent ban

In a May report, Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority found 67% of the 58 whales caught by boats it monitored died or lost consciousness quickly or immediately.

It said 14 whales were shot more than once, and two were shot four times before they died.

One of the favored targets, the fin whale — which is only second in size to the blue whale — is an endangered species.

This week, a group of experts concluded that "it is possible to improve the methods used for the hunting of large whales" and improve animal welfare.

Employees prepare a whale for butchering at the whaling station in the village of Midsandur, Iceland, some 70 km north of Reykjavik, on August 05, 2022.
A survey published in early June indicated that 51% of Icelanders were opposed to the hunt and 29% in favorImage: Sergei Gapon/AA/picture alliance

But the Human Society rejected the argument.

"There is simply no way to make harpooning whales at sea anything other than cruel and bloody, and no amount of modifications will change that," said Ruud Tombrock, executive director of the group.

Opponents of whaling said they would continue to fight for a permanent ban.

Wanning interest in whaling

Iceland is one of only three countries in the world, along with Norway and Japan, that allows commercial whaling.

The practice has declined in recent years, largely due to a drop in demand for whale meat and pressure from animal welfare campaigners.

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The country has only one remaining whaling company, Hvalur, and its license to hunt fin whales expires at the end of the season.

Although the company has not publicly commented on the government's decision, Icelandic media reported that some whaling boats were already out at sea.

Traditionally, the whaling season ends in late September or early October.

lo/jcg (AFP, AP, dpa)