Whaling Suspension Inauspicious for Coalition Partnership Skip to content
Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson
Photo: Golli. Bjarni Benediktsson.

Whaling Suspension Inauspicious for Coalition Partnership

In a panel discussion on Vísir yesterday, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson stated that the temporary ban on whaling was inauspicious for the partnership between the coalition parties. A legal opinion commissioned by Fisheries Iceland has concluded that the decision to temporarily halt whaling goes against the law.

“A huge political decision”

Yesterday morning, the leaders of the three governing parties were invited to a panel discussion on Vísir. The leaders discussed the recently released report on the sale of Íslandsbanki; the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries’ decision to stop whaling; and immigration affairs.

Regarding the suspension of whaling, Bjarni Benediktsson stated that the decision had surprised him: “We’ve been clear in our conviction that the decision should be reconsidered.”

Bjarni emphasised that the issue did not simply revolve around economic or animal welfare issues; there was a tradition of whaling in Iceland and putting an end to it amounted to “a huge political decision.” Bjarni noted that the decision, as a political issue, should have gone before the parliament. “I think it’s a very strange turn of events that it happens like this a day before whaling was supposed to start.”

Bjarni also noted that, during the formation of the coalition government, the three parties had discussed whether an agreement could be reached on putting an end to whaling – but no such agreement was reached. “When whaling is stopped in this manner, I am alarmed; I am not satisfied.”

A difference of opinion

Bjarni further noted that the position of the Left-Green Movement was that whales should not be hunted; the Left-Green Movement believed that it was inhumane to kill whales so it was not exactly the methodology that was at issue. “I have a feeling it’s not just about the whaling methods; I have a feeling it’s about whaling itself.”

“How are you going to consider the welfare of a whale you’re going to kill?” Bjarni asked.

Finally, the Finance Minister did not rule out the possibility that the whaling issue would affect the partnership of the coalition parties. When the panel’s moderator, Heimir Már Pétursson, asked if the issue would affect the continuation of the government cooperation, Bjarni refused to say. “But I don’t think this is particularly auspicious for our partnership in governance.”

Stands with Svandís’s decision

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir responded to Bjarni’s comments by saying that she stood by Svandís’ decision. “First of all, these three parties have different views on whaling. Regardless, the minister received a formal opinion from a professional council on animal welfare. Having received this opinion, it would have been almost impossible for the minister not to act.”

Legal opinion finds the ban “unconstitutional”

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir, CEO of Fisheries Iceland (SFS), discussed a legal opinion that SFS recently commissioned from the law firm LEX.

Heiðrún stated that the legal opinion had found that Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s decision to temporarily stop whaling was unlawful. Heiðrún called for further justification from the Minister.

“We have said from the beginning that this unceremonious and unprecedented decision by the minister goes against the law, and now there is a legal opinion that substantiates our claim,” Heiðrún told RÚV.

“The legal opinion confirmed that the minister went against the freedom of employment and property rights provisions of the constitution; went against proportionality; went against the so-called code of governance; and, during the conduct of the council of specialists, the provisions of the administrative law were not followed.”

When asked if SFS intended to take the case further, Heiðrún replied that she hoped that the opinion would lead to the minister providing a more thorough explanation of her legal rationale. Over a week ago, SFS requested documents detailing the basis of the decision.

“We still haven’t received any word on these documents. As a result, I’m concerned that the preparation of this decision was poor and reprehensible, which is why it’s imperative for a well-reasoned legal opinion to be published in support of the minister’s far-reaching decision.”

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