Hvalur, hf. will not do any whaling this summer, RÚV reports. CEO Kristján Loftsson attributes the suspension to difficult conditions, both on the Japanese market, where the company sells the vast majority of its catch, as well as social distancing regulations that make production difficult in Iceland.
Kristján enumerated a number of hurdles that will make whaling in Iceland untenable this summer. For one, he said, the Japanese government subsidises local whalers’ production, which means that Hvalur is not in a competitive position to sell its own products on the market. He continued that there is also now more demand for tests and chemical analysis on whale products from Iceland – tests that are aren’t done on whale products caught and sold in and around Japan. On top of this, social distancing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic mean that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cut up any catch. It’s work that must be done in close proximity with other employees and if one staff member were to get infected, a number of employees would then need to be quarantined.
This is the second summer in a row that Hvalur has suspended its operations, but Kristján says that the company is conducting research on whether iron-rich byproducts from whale catch can be processed for use in dietary supplements for people suffering from anaemia. The company is also researching whether gelatin in whale bones and blubber can be used in therapeutic applications or other food products.
Current Icelandic quota allows for a yearly catch of more than 200 fin whales and 200 minke whales. In 2018, 146 fin whales were caught and six minke whales.