No fin whale will be killed in Iceland in 2016

L’Islanda ha annunciato che quest’anno non aprirà la caccia alle balenottere. La scelta è di carattere economico, l’esportazione di carne di balena è infatti sempre più difficoltosa.

Iceland, along with Japan and Norway, is one of the countries that continue violating the moratorium issued by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, which bans whaling for commercial purposes. Moreover, the Nordic country is the only in the world to hunt fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), cetaceans threatened with extinction.


Balenottera comune in mare
Fin whale is one of the 100 mammal species most threatened


Last year alone, Iceland killed over 150 fin whales, for a total of 706 individuals hunted since 2006, when the country resumed commercial hunting. However, no fin whale will be killed in Iceland in 2016, as announced by Kristjan Loftsson, director at Iceland’s largest whaling company, Hvalur HF.


What led to this decision were not ethical but economic reasons: Icelanders don’t eat fin whales, the animals are only hunted to be sold on the Japanese market. Exports are more and more difficult due to several factores, including logistics, the opposition of international ports to the transit of whale meat, Japan’s decreased consumption, and an increased international community’s opposition to whaling.


Balena cacciata in Islanda
Iceland’s government establishes how many whales will be killed each year. According to the IWC, 46 individuals would represent a sustainable amount, but more than 150 are usually hunted


The news was greeted by great enthusiasm from environmental associations and whale lovers. “This is great news for whales and for all those who opposed this useless and pointless hunt,” said Greenpeace.


Despite it represents a positive step, it is only for fin whales. In fact, the hunting of common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) will start as of May. Fin whales will thus swim fearlessly, unlike their cousins.


However, a positive trend is being registered: only 3 per cent of Icelanders claimed they regularly eat whale meat, and the percentage of tourists who ate it halved over the past 5 years, from 40 per cent in 2009 to 18 per cent in 2014.


Whale watching
In Iceland, whale watching generates over 11 million euros each year, attracting more than 200,000 tourists annually


Whale watching represents one of Iceland’s main touristic attractions and generates more than 11 million euros a year, attracting over 200,000 tourists annually. Whales are worth more when alive and it is way better admiring them in the wild, rather than on our dining tables.

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