Iceland to Decide on Continued Whaling Next Week Skip to content

Iceland to Decide on Continued Whaling Next Week

By Yelena

Golli. Hvalur hf. operations in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Hvalur hf.’s whaling station in West Iceland.

A decision will be made next Tuesday on whether a five-year whaling licence will be issued to Hvalur hf., Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir has stated. RÚV reported on the minister’s statement, made during question period in Alþingi this morning. Hvalur hf. is the only Icelandic company that has been hunting whales in recent years and their licence for the controversial practice expired in 2023.

Hvalur hf. submitted an application for a new five-year licence in January. The whaling season often begins in June, but the application is still under review within the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. Last month, the minister requested various institutions to review and comment on the application and says the last of the comments were submitted two days ago. Hvalur hf. has been given until tomorrow to respond to the institutions’ comments and a final decision on whether or not to issue a licence to the company will be made on Tuesday next week.

Animal welfare concerns

The minister has been criticised for the application’s long procedure time, including by Centre Party MP Bergþór Ólason. Bjarkey pointed out that last time a whaling licence was issued, in 2019, the procedure took around four months and whaling began in mid-July. “Since then, issues have emerged, for example about how the animals are killed and the interplay between whaling and animal welfare,” Bjarkey stated.

Last year, then-Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir temporarily halted the whaling season last June one day before it was set to begin in light of the strong opinion of an animal welfare advisory board under Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority. The board concluded that the fishing method used when hunting large whales did not comply with the Act on Animal Welfare. The whaling ban was later lifted at the end of August, allowing Hvalur hf. to hunt whales last autumn. The company’s ships were delayed in leaving Reykjavík harbour by two activists who climbed their masts in protest.

In January of this year, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that Svandís’ decision to halt whaling had not been in accordance with the law. The decision and subsequent finding caused tension within the governing coalition.

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Former Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir had previously raised the possibility of stopping whaling in Iceland, including in an editorial published in 2022, where she cited the practice’s marginal economic benefit and harm to Iceland’s international image. Prominent Icelanders have spoken out against the practice recently, asking current Fisheries Minister Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir not to issue a new licence to Hvalur hf.

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