A newly-published report on whaling concludes the industry is economically beneficial to Iceland overall. The report also found no indications that whaling decreases the amount of tourism in the country. RÚV reported first.
The report focused on whaling’s overall economic impact on Iceland. It was commissioned by the Ministry of Industries and Innovation and carried out by the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economic Studies. Iceland’s whaling industry accounts for about 3% of all whales hunted worldwide, according to the report. The report suggests that Iceland has practiced whaling responsibly since it began the activity in 1935, in part by protecting all whale species whose populations are considered at risk.
Despite conservationist campaigns in the late 20th century, tourists in Iceland increased by 34% between 1986 and 1990, more than in the UK during the same period. According to the report, there is also no evidence that Iceland’s whaling activity has reduced interest in whale watching in the country.
Hunting more whales would increase fish stocks
According to Oddgeir Ágúst Ottesen, an economist at the Institute of Economic Studies, whaling created ISK 1.7 billion ($14.1m/12.4m) in revenue in 2017. “We evaluated this and looked at all the positive and negative aspects and when everything is put together it’s economically advantageous to hunt whales,” Oddgeir stated.
According to the report, hunting more whales would increase fish stocks in Icelandic waters. “Whales eat seven to eight times what we fish. And that eating has a great impact. Whale populations are increasing very much and whales’ impact could increase,” Oddgeir explained. “The conclusion was that yes fish stocks benefit from the fact that whale populations are reduced.”
Import and export
The report explains that fewer minke whales were hunted in 2017 and 2018 due to unfavourable weather conditions. In the first 10 months of 2018, Iceland imported 4.2 tonnes of minke whale meat from Norway at a total cost of ISK 5.3 million ($43,900/€38,000), despite the fact Icelanders caught far below the quota of over 200 whales. The report considers the local minke whale population large enough to supply both local demand and export.
Fin whale products (mostly frozen meat) from Iceland have largely been exported to Japan in recent years. Each whale hunted between 2009-2017 created an average revenue of ISK 16.4 million ($136,000/€119,000), and total revenue between those years amounted to around ISK 11.3 billion ($93.6m/€82.1m), for 699 fin whales.
Suggest regulating whale watching
In 2017, the total revenue of whale watching companies in the country amounted to ISK 3.2 billion ($26.5m/€23.2m). The report considers whale watching an appropriate use of natural resources, but suggests that increased regulation of the industry is necessary. If too many whale watching companies operate within a small area, it can affect whale behaviour and feeding habits. Both nature conservation groups and the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland have previously suggested the need for regulation of the industry.