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hvalur whaling in iceland
Photo: Golli.

Whaling Ban Lifted in Iceland

The hunting of fin whales will be permitted in Iceland once more, though with stricter requirements and increased supervision, according to a notice from the Icelandic government. Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir will issue a new regulation on whaling today. Svandís instituted a temporary ban on whaling on animal welfare grounds on June 20, one day before the whaling season was set to begin.

New regulation responds to report on animal welfare

Svandís’ new regulation takes into account the surveillance report of Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) on the 2022 whaling season, a report authored by a council of specialists on animal welfare that found that whaling methods do not comply with Iceland’s Act on Animal Welfare, and a report from a working group that proposes ways to reduce the number of aberrations during whaling.

The working group submitted its report on August 28, and concluded that there were “grounds for making changes to the hunting method that can contribute to a reduction in the number of aberrations during hunting and this increased animal welfare,” according to the government notice.

The notice states that the coming whaling regulation will include “detailed and stricter requirements for fishing equipment, fishing methods, and increased supervision. The requirements concern training, education, fishing equipment and fishing methods.” The regulation will not allow for the use of electricity during the killing of whales as “various question remain unanswered regarding the possible effectiveness and effects of electricity during killing” according to the findings of the working group. MAST and Fisheries Iceland will be responsible for monitoring whaling and are to send a report to the Ministry of Fisheries at the end of the 2023 whaling season.

Whaling ban a source of tension

Whaling has been highly controversial in Iceland in recent years, with members of the public, activists, and local and international celebrities calling on Icelandic authorities to put a halt to the practice. In February 2022, Svandís wrote in an op-ed that she saw little justification to continue the practice of whaling once current licences expire. The temporary ban has, however, been a source of tension within the government coalition of the Left-Green Movement, the Independence Party, and the Progressive Party.

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