Iceland Confirms Whaling Quota for 2009 Skip to content

Iceland Confirms Whaling Quota for 2009

By Iceland Review

Minister of Fisheries Steingrímur J. Sigfússon confirmed yesterday the decision of his predecessor Einar K. Gudfinnsson on a new quota for minkes and fin whales this year. Sigfússon, who had considered revoking the decision, said his hands were tied.

However, as Sigfússon stressed, his confirmation of a whaling quota for 2009 does not automatically mean that a quota on whales will be issued for the following four years, as Gudfinnsson had announced, Morgunbladid reports.

Whaling in Iceland. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Whalers were very relieved. “I’m ecstatic. This has been a difficult waiting period,” said Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, managing director of minke whaling company Hrefnuveidimenn ehf. “Now we will work on everything at full speed so that we can begin whaling in May.”

Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairman of the Akranes Labor Union, was also satisfied with Sigfússon’s decision. “This is very positive news, considering that with this decision jobs here in west Iceland will increase considerably, which we could really use because of the difficulties the employment market is going through these days.”

Environmentalists were not as happy. Greenpeace has declared its disappointment with Sigfússon’s decision, arguing that whaling is a thing of the past and that there is no market for whale meat. Iceland should rather focus on developing the tourist industry, Greenpeace concluded.

Árni Finnsson, chairman of the Nature Protection Association of Iceland, said it is sad that the first fisheries minister who is both “left” and “green” had allowed commercial whaling to take place.

The Left-Green Party, chaired by Sigfússon, has often declared itself to be against commercial whaling.

Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, managing director of Elding whale watching company, also expressed her discontent. “The international community will definitely show us harsh reactions,” she said, adding that some tourists had already canceled their whale watching tours and that some travel agencies had announced that they would remove Elding from their list if Iceland pursued commercial whaling.

Sigfússon himself said that he was disappointed that the decision of his predecessor couldn’t be revoked—it was legitimate although it was based on weak arguments—and that he expected protests because of it.

When and if his decision will be protested, Sigfússon said he will defend it, along with Iceland’s right to sustainable whaling.

However, in Sigfússon’s view, the decision might harm Icelandic interests and that by making such a decision he had crossed a certain line. Now Icelanders would just have to wait and watch the consequences.

Sigfússon reiterated that if the basis for whaling changes, the Ministry of Fisheries has the right to change the quota, for example if markets prove inaccessible or if whaling proves harmful to greater public interests.

The minister plans to reevaluate the basis for commercial whaling and complete that task before making a decision on a whaling quota for 2010. He wants to assign the reevaluation to the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economics.

Furthermore, Sigfússon has appointed a three-person committee led by lawyer Jón B. Jónasson to review the whaling law from 1949 and the issuing of minke whale hunting licenses to ensure that they are based on equality.

Last but not least, the Icelandic Marine Research Institute will be given the task of marking special areas for whale watching, near the harbors where whale watching companies base their operations, where whaling will be banned.

Click here to read other recent news on whaling in Iceland.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get news from Iceland, photos, and in-depth stories delivered to your inbox every week!

* indicates required

Subscribe to Iceland Review

In-depth stories and high-quality photography showcasing life in Iceland!