Lack of Clarity Over Whale Hunting Contentions Skip to content

Lack of Clarity Over Whale Hunting Contentions

By Andie Sophia Fontaine

Photo: Hard to Port.

Following the recent decision from Minister of Fisheries Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir to grant the whaling company Hvalur hf. a permit to hunt fin whales this year, Hvalur hf. CEO Kristján Loftsson has made a number of contentions regarding both the operating practices of the Ministry and his own company’s capabilities to engage in fin whale hunting this year. Some of these contentions are contradictory, and do not appear to hold up to scrutiny.

The quota

While whales are mammals, they are subject to many of the same regulations that apply to fishing. Included in that is the quota system. Iceland’s fishing quota system is based on the idea of sustainable fishing, and grants different companies a maximum amount of different types of fish that may be caught in a given time frame based on research from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, amongst others.

The fin whaling quota this year is 128. Speaking to RÚV, Kristján said that it was “without precedent” that the whaling quota is reduced from previous years; that it is instead increased.

The whaling quota over the years is a matter of public record. A look at the numbers shows that whaling quotas are more complex than a continuous rise. For example, in 2018 a quota was granted of 161 fin whales in addition to 20% of the unused quota the year previous; in 2022, it was the same.

So while the total number of fin whales that are hunted in any given year may vary, during these two years the base quota (i.e., the number of fin whales allowed to be hunted before the previous unused quota is factored in) was the same.

Too late to hunt or not

Kristján has also contended multiple times that the license was granted far too late for his company to conduct any whale hunting this year.

In 2023, former Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s temporary fin whaling ban held its final day on August 31. The fin whale hunting season began September 1 ended at the end of that month, with 24 fin whales hunted.

It would therefore not be surprising if Hvalur hf., which this year now has an even longer season in which to hunt fin whales, did go whaling this summer, perhaps underlined by Kristján telling reporters that he does not believe the last whale has been hunted.

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