Iceland Mag

4 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Animals

Expanded whale sanctuaries might force cancellation of all minke whale hunting this summer

By Staff

  • Posing with the harpoon Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson of IP-Útgerð laments he might not kill any minke whales this year. Photo/Vilhelm

In November of 2017 the Icelandic government decided to expand the whale sanctuary in Faxaflói bay significantly. At the same time a new large whale sanctuary was established off the coast of North Iceland. The goal was to provide whales with more safe waters and ensure whale watching and whale hunting would not take place in the same waters. 

Read more: Whale sanctuary in Faxaflói bay to be expanded, new sanctuary established in N Iceland

The expansion of the whale sanctuary in Faxaflói bay has forced whale hunters in West Iceland to reconsider their plans for hunting in the summer of 2018, according to the local newspaper Morgunblaðið. Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, the CEO of IP-Útgerð, the most important whale hunting company in W. Iceland, told Morgunblaðið that the company has requested that the whale sanctuary be scaled back to allow more hunting in the waters off Reykjavík.

He points out that 82.3% of all whales caught in the past decade have been caught in waters which are now included in the whale sanctuary. The company might not hunt any whales this summer if the sanctuary remains unchanged.

Icelandic whaling pales in comparison to Norway
No great whales were caught in Icelandic waters last year, and only 17 minke whales were killed, most in Faxaflói bay in West Iceland. Two whaling boats hunted whales last year. The Icelandic Marine Research Institute has determined that 224 minke whales can be killed in 2018 without threatening the population. Minke whales are not considered endangered.

Read more: This day in history: The sinking of whaling vessels in Reykjavík harbour was "Iceland's 9/11"

More than half of all whales caught in Icelandic waters go to satisfy demand from restaurants which cater to foreign visitors. To meet the demand whale meat is also imported from Norway. Last year Norwegian whalers caught 432 minke whales. The Norwegian authorities have permitted the hunting of 1,278 minke whales this year.

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