Administrative Fine Imposed on Hvalur After Welfare Law Breach

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Iceland’s only whaling company has been fined ISK 400,000 ($2,900 / €2,700) for violating animal welfare laws by delaying a necessary follow-up shot on a fin whale in September of 2023. This breach of regulations led to a temporary suspension of the company’s whaling activities last year.

Fin whale shot outside designated target area

On September 14, the operations of a whaling vessel owned by Iceland’s sole whaling company, Hvalur hf, were temporarily halted due to alleged breaches of animal welfare laws. The suspension followed an incident on September 7 where a crew member shot a fin whale “outside the designated target area,” resulting in the animal not dying immediately. The whale was subsequently shot again nearly half an hour later.

Recent regulations mandate an immediate follow-up shot if the initial attempt does not result in the animal’s death. The vessel was docked for eight days following this incident, during which representatives from Hvalur hf. made improvements to the ship to obtain permission to resume hunting.

A statement on the website of the Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) notes the following: “The company violated animal welfare laws during whale hunting by allowing thirty minutes to pass between the first and second shots. The animal died a few minutes after the second shot. According to the regulations on whale hunting, a follow-up shot must be carried out immediately if the animal does not die from the first shot. The administrative fine is ISK 400,000 ($2,900 / €2,700).”

Other companies also fined

Other companies also received administrative fines, including an ISK 160,000 ($1,200 / €1,000) fine imposed on a slaughterhouse in Southwest Iceland for leaving a pig with a broken leg in a slaughter pen over an entire weekend before it was slaughtered, an ISK 120,000 ($870 / €800) fine for delaying the veterinary care of a sick cat that was later euthanised, and an ISK 418,000 ($3,000 / €2,800) fine on an aquaculture company in East Iceland for improper euthanasia of farmed fish.

As reported in January, Hvalur hf. has filed a claim against the Icelandic state, citing significant financial losses due to a temporary whaling ban imposed by the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir last year. The claim, supported by the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s conclusion that the ban lacked legal basis, seeks compensation for the company and its employees.

Record Population Growth Last Year – 400,000 Milestone in Sight

Locals and tourists enjoy the sunshine in Reykjavík's Austurvöllur square.

Iceland’s population rose by 11,500 in 2022, potentially reaching 400,000 this year, according to a report from the Housing and Construction Authority. The proportion of working immigrants in the national labour market has quadrupled since 2003.

On course to reach 400,000 by end of the year

Iceland’s population increased by 11,500 last year, marking the most significant growth since records began. According to a monthly report of the Housing and Construction Authority, this growth trend has continued in 2023; in the first six months of the year, the country’s population increased by 1.7%. If this trend continues, the increase this year will surpass last year’s, with Iceland’s population reaching 400,000 by year-end.

The report also notes that foreign nationals currently compose nearly 18% of the population or over 70,000 individuals. Furthermore, foreign nationals constitute about 30% of the age group between 26-36 years. The institution notes that, based on tax data, the proportion of working immigrants in the Icelandic labour market has quadrupled since 2003, rising from just over 5% to over 20% last year.

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Katrín Ólafsdóttir, an associate professor at the University of Reykjavik, stated that since the tourism sector began its rapid growth, there had been a strong correlation between Iceland’s economic growth and the number of foreign nationals: “The correlation was much weaker in the years before, but the last ten years show a very strong link.”

Foreign nationals nearly 50% of the unemployed

While working immigrants in the Icelandic labour market have quadrupled since 2003, the proportion of foreign nationals among the country’s unemployed population has also seen a sharp increase in recent years, now reaching nearly 50%.

Speaking to RÚV, Unnur Sverrisdóttir, Head of the Directorate of Labour, expressed concerns about this trend, noting that various measures had been tried without the desired success. Unnur speculated that several factors may be contributing to the trend, including language proficiency and challenges related to childcare, especially for single mothers who might not have the same support system as native Icelanders.

Unnur also emphasised the need for a better understanding of the issue and highlighted potential gaps in educational opportunities for younger foreign nationals in Iceland, especially those who aren’t proficient in Icelandic.