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Photo: Golli.

EFTA Surveillance Authority to Investigate Whaling in Iceland

The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) – which monitors compliance with European Economic Area rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – intends to investigate whaling off the coast of Iceland. The case has been expedited. The Iceland Nature Conservation Association has also demanded that the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) revoke the operating licence of the whaling company Hvalur and has reported the company to the police, RÚV reports.

Claim that operations are not up to standards

As noted by RÚV, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) awarded the whaling company Hvalur an indefinite operating licence in 2021 related to the processing, cutting, freezing, and storage of whale products. The licence is dependent on the company fulfilling the legal requirements for its activities. The Iceland Nature Conservation Association is now calling for the licence to be revoked.

Katrín Oddsdóttir, attorney for the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, told RÚV that the call for revocation was predicated on the association’s belief that Hvalur had not followed laws and regulations during its processing of whale products. “We have been calling for reports from various sources, and it turns out that things are not up to standards in many regards, in terms of the hunting and processing of whale products, for example.”

Pollution prevention lacking

RÚV notes that a report from the Health Inspectorate of West Iceland published last year found that pollution prevention at Hvalur’s processing plant was inadequate. A spring near the company’s plant was unprotected, and the report stated that the water could easily be polluted. The report also notes that oil pollution prevention in the processing area was not up to standards.

“Furthermore, the hygiene in the plant itself does not seem to be particularly admirable, according to a report from MAST,” Katrín added. Samples of whale meat taken by MAST showed higher-than-permissible levels of bacteria. “Which is naturally very serious, because, of course, this is about food safety … which is why we’ve also referred the matter to the EFTA Surveillance Authority.”

ESA reviewing the case

RÚV reports that the ESA announced today that it intended to investigate Hvalur’s whaling operations and that the case would be expedited. Katrín told RÚV that she hoped that a result would be reached before the start of the whaling season, which usually begins in the middle of June. “Of course, we hope that we will get help from the outside to point out the absurdity of whaling in the modern era.”

According to Katrín, “administrative enabling” in Iceland had thus far prevented Hvalur’s licence from being revoked: “There is a tendency within the administration to overlook deviations and things that obviously do not comply with regulations. When it comes to regulations regarding drinking water and pollution prevention, the issue is serious.” As noted by RÚV, representatives of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association filed a complaint against the company Hvalur to the Police in West Iceland yesterday.

Anti-whaling protest on Saturday

As noted on IR this week, Icelandic musician Björk will participate in an anti-whaling protest in Reykjavík on Saturday, June 3. The organisers of the event are urging the Icelandic government to put a stop to whaling immediately.

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