Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that whaling vessels may be required to have an animal welfare officer aboard in the future.
Emphasizing the moral value of animal life, she states that the goal of such regulation would be to ensure that the whales are treated as ethically as possible and that their suffering not be prolonged. Svandís said that since slaughterhouses face strict regulations under the government, that whaling ships should also be held accountable for the ethical treatment of their catch.
Under the new system, a crew member from each whaling ship would be appointed as an animal rights observer and trained by veterinarians at MAST. These observers would then be responsible for documenting the whale hunt, from the moment the whale emerges to the moment the whale is loaded off the boat. Video documentation will then be submitted to MAST for review.
These new regulations would allow the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries to exercise greater control over the practice of whaling, without requiring further legislation to be passed through Alþing.
The comments come in response to the beginning of Iceland’s whaling season when the first whale in three years was caught on June 24. The quota for this year, set by Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, includes 161 fin whales and 217 minke whales.
Previously this year, Svandís stated that she saw little justification to extend the whaling permits which expire in 2023. If the permits are to be renewed, then whaling must be shown to be economically justifiable. As it stands, according to her, the economic benefits of whaling are marginal, and perhaps detrimental to Iceland’s international image.