Iceland Fisheries Minister signals end of whaling

February 7, 2022

The Igovernment of Iceland has publicly signaled an end to Icelandic whaling with the announcement that no new quotas will be issued for an industry with no ongoing economic benefit to the country, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) announced on February 4.

Svandis Svavarsdottir, Icelandic Minister for Fisheries, told media that the government is evaluating social and economic impacts of the decision—which she anticipates will be negligible, following three years without commercial whaling in the country’s waters. Svavarsdottir highlighted that the absence of economic benefits would be the key factor in the decision not to issue government licenses for whaling when existing quota authorizations expire next year.

“Japan has been the biggest export market, but consumption of whale meat in Japan has been declining for years. Why should Iceland take the risk of keeping up whaling, which has not brought any economic gain, in order to sell a product for which there is hardly any demand?” asked the Minister in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid.

“This is wonderful news for Iceland, whales in its waters, and its world-class whale watching industry,” said Sharon Livermore, Director of Marine Conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare . She added: “The Minister’s thoughtful framing of the situation indicates her government has taken a fresh look at its whaling policy and has come to the same conclusions as the rest of the world. This is an unsustainable, unjustified and unspeakably cruel industry with no place in modern society.”  

Iceland had long tried to find markets for whale meat in Japan and Norway, with little success. In contrast, the negative impact of whaling on the Icelandic economy has been significant. For example the US-based Whole Foods chain halted its marketing of Icelandic products in response to continued whaling in Iceland.

“2020 saw the Icelandic Minke Whalers Association quit its bloody business,” said Livermore. “Only Kristjan Loftsson and his fin whaling company remain.”

According to quota regulations, Loftsson is still allowed to kill fin whales this year, but has not done so since 2018.

“We expect 2022 will mark the fourth year without Icelandic whaling,” Livermore added. “This announcement is the death knell for Icelandic whaling. This proud, stunningly beautiful country continues its migration from whaling to whale watching, harvesting leviathan benefits to its economy. We commend the Icelandic government on this very welcome move.”

Research contact: @ifawglobal