Iceland Mag

4 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Animals

Growing opposition to whaling: Its effects of on tourism to be studied

By Staff

  • Whaling boat One of the boats of Hvalur Hf being prepared for the hunt at the old downtown harbour in Reykjavík. Photo/Daníel Rúnarsson

As the whaling boats are being prepared for this year's whaling season conservationists and representatives of the torusism industry have put pressure on the government to take action to curb or ban whaling. The local news site Vísir reports that the Ministry of Fisheries has announced that a decision on the future of whaling in Iceland will be based on the effects whaling has on the ecosystem as well as other industries, including tourism.

Support for whaling continues to drop
The decision is an important victory for conservationists and the tourism industry who have argued that whaling and whale watching cannot co-exist. Whaling generates only a handful of jobs, while tourism has quickly become the largest export industry of Iceland. Ten years ago, however, whale watching and tourism were very small industries, while whaling was still seen as an important part of the fisheries sector. 

Since then support for whaling among Icelanders has been dropping steadily and the popularity of whale meat has plummeted among locals. The rapidly shrinking whaling industry is sustained by exports to Japan and sales to restaurants that cater to tourists. 

Read more: Great whales to be hunted in Iceland in the summer of 2018 for first time since 2015

The small whaling industry has an extremely efficient lobby, not least due to the fact that the owner of the largest whaling company in Iceland, Hvalur hf, is one of Iceland's wealthiest men. Kristján Loftsson, the CEO and principal owner of Hvalur, uses his enormous wealth to subsidize his hunting of fin whales

Effects on tourism to be evaluated
Conservationists have argued that factoring in the effects of whaling on the image of Iceland and tourism shows that the economic, as well as the environmental, impact of the industry is overwhelmingly negative. Taking the total economic impact into consideration when making a decision about the future of whaling, the government will be forced to ban the industry, they have argued.

The whale sanctuaries in Faxaflói bay, off the coast of Reykjavík, and in North Iceland were expanded earlier this year to keep whaling and whale watching more clearly separate from one another.

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

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