Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries, stated there is little evidence that whaling is economically beneficial to Iceland. The current government regulations allows for whaling until the year 2023, and Svandís says she sees little reason to permit the practice after that licence expires.
In a column published in Morgunblaðið newspaper today, Svandís points out that since whaling for commercial purposes was reintroduced in 2006, several hundred fin whales and a considerable number of minke whales have been killed. She states that it is undisputed that whaling is not of great economic importance. Over the past three years, only one minke whale has been killed, in 2021.
The companies that had a licence to whale during these years chose not to do so. Svandís says there could be several reasons for that choice, “but perhaps the simple explanation is that sustained losses from this hunting is the most likely outcome.” The consumption of whale meat in Japan, Iceland’s main market for the product, is declining. The Minister also points out that whaling is a controversial practice, and this has a negative impact on Iceland, though it may be hard to measure.
Hvalur hf., Iceland’s main whaling company, has been embroiled in several controversies in recent years. Public outcries followed when the company killed a pregnant fin whale and a rare hybrid whale in 2018. Hvalur hf. was at risk of losing their whaling licence after failing to submit captains’ logs for the 2014, 2015, and 2018 seasons. The company has been sued by three of its shareholders as well as by activists.
Svandís stated that the government would carry out an assessment on the potential economic and social impact of whaling this year.