Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir told RÚV it’s not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare. Iceland’s only active whaling company, Hvalur hf., says it is developing two methods to make hunting more efficient, one that uses artificial intelligence and another that uses an electric current.
The report in question, newly released by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), showed that around one-third of whales studied did not die instantaneously when killed. Some 14 whales were shot more than once, while two whales had to be shot four times. The time it took the whales to die averaged 11.5 minutes but took nearly two hours in one case. One harpooned whale managed to escape after a five-hour chase.
No legal basis for withdrawing licence
The Minister called the report’s findings “shocking” and said it called for a re-evaluation of whaling in Iceland. “I find that this data indicates that this occupation is more a thing of the past than the future,” Svandís stated. Only one company, Hvalur hf., currently practices whaling in Iceland. Svandís stated that it is not possible to withdraw the company’s licence for the upcoming whaling season despite the report’s findings. “There needs to be a legal basis for yanking away this licence. That legal basis is not at hand, as far as I am informed in my ministry,” she stated. Svandís has previously indicated the government would not issue further whaling licences after the 2023 season.
Developing methods to make hunting more effective
In response to the MAST report, Hvalur hf. stated the company is developing two methods to make whaling more efficient. One method involves implementing artificial intelligence which should improve the accuracy of the harpoons. The other method involves killing the whales with an electric current if they don’t die instantaneously from the first harpoon. Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Hvalur hf., made comments on 76 points in the report. The comments also refute the assumption that whales’ time of death equated to when they stopped moving, as animals can continue to move after death.
Hvalur hf. uses grenade-tipped harpoons to kill whales. They aim to penetrate about one metre into the whale and explode, releasing spring-loaded barbs into the flesh. According to the MAST report, this method kills around two-thirds of the animals instantly.