Iceland will resume killing endangered fin whales despite bogus climate claims being debunked

Rogue whaler Kristján Loftsson and his company Hvalur continue to successfully lobby to kill the planet’s second biggest creature despite widespread disgust tarnishing Iceland’s image

Photo credit - Aqqa Rosing-Asvid - Visit Greenland - CC BY 2.0

Iceland has just announced that the killing of endangered fin whales can continue under 'stricter' conditions. The Government announced back in June that hunting would be suspended until 31 August after an official report laid bare the appalling cruelty involved.

Indications over the summer had suggested the Government would opt to ban whaling.

However, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, announced today it would continue, stating:

"A regulation will be introduced that includes detailed and stricter requirements for fishing equipment, fishing methods and increased monitoring. The conditions include training, education, fishing equipment and fishing methods."

EIA Senior Ocean Consultant Clare Perry said:

"Time and again, it has been proven that there is simply no humane way to kill a whale at sea. The hunt will remain appallingly cruel, utterly unnecessary, bad for the climate and a huge threat to Iceland’s economy and international reputation."

Svandís Svavarsdóttir speaks to the media

A ‘ludicrous’ attempt to justify the killing of endangered fin whales by claiming their slaughter will help Iceland achieve its climate goals has been debunked by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Citing a recent report, rogue whaler Kristján Loftsson claimed that continuing to hunt fin whales – the second largest creature on the planet – was good for the climate because of the carbon dioxide (CO2) they exhale and the impact of their faeces and urine on the growth of algae in the seas off Iceland.

EIA Senior Ocean Advisor Clare Perry said:

“The belligerent whaling by Loftsson and his company Hvalur is well documented – as is the cruelty of the methods used and wholly unprofitable nature of whaling as a commercial enterprise.

“With his ludicrous claim that Iceland will be helping to meet its goals in the fight against climate change by allowing the continued slaughter of these endangered creatures, he is descending into outright farce.

“In fact, the reverse is true – whales, including fin whales, provide vital and unique ocean ecosystem services, including capturing carbon from the atmosphere.”

Icelandic whaling appals many people around the world - photo credit - Environmental Investigation Agency

Hvalur’s aging whaling ships have sat idle this summer after the Icelandic Government announced on 20 June that hunting would be suspended after an official report laid bare the appalling cruelty involved.

The suspension is due to end on 31 August but, although the whaling season is almost over, Loftsson has stated his intention to resume whaling from 1 September.

In a new briefing released today, An Indefensible Practice – Iceland’s commercial whaling in the face of climate, economy, welfare and biodiversity concerns, EIA debunks Loftsson’s claims, pointing out that a report by the University of Iceland, commissioned by Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, found that whaling actually reduces the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon.

Another study suggests that rebuilding the whale populations devastated by commercial whaling would remove 160,000 tonnes of carbon each year through sinking whale carcasses.

Loftsson’s spurious claims also take no account of the climate-harming emissions directly arising from the hunting of fin whales in Iceland, including:

  • emissions from the storage and shipping of fin whale products to Japan
  • emissions from powering the hunting vessels each day through the hunting season
  • emissions due to the refrigerated storage of whale products over a long period of time.

EIA experts calculate that a single shipment by Hvalur of 2,576 tonnes of fin whale meat to Japan last December in the Norwegian-flagged Silver Copenhagen, a Dutch-owned cargo ship, resulted in greenhouse gas emissions within the range of 2,939-3,054 tonnes CO2-equivalent.

Perry added:

“The plain truth is that whaling no longer adds up as a viable economic activity and, despite Loftsson’s preposterous claims, it certainly doesn’t add up as a credible measure to help fight climate change.

“All whales are the allies of humanity in our efforts to tackle global warming and should be seen as such, not brutally slaughtered for their meat to be shipped across the world to a market that doesn’t want it and to end up turned into dog treats in Japan.”

The briefing concludes by calling on the Government of Iceland to finally institute a permanent ban on all commercial whaling.