Whaling Vessel Suspended for Violating Welfare Protocols

Whaling ships

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has temporarily suspended the operations of whaling vessel Hvalur 8 for violating animal welfare protocols during a fin whale hunt, Vísir reports. The suspension will remain in place until corrective measures are verified by MAST and the Directorate of Fisheries.

Suspension in effect until corrective measures are adopted

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has temporarily halted the operations of the whaling vessel Hvalur 8, citing severe breaches of animal welfare protocols during the capture of a fin whale.

According to a press release on MAST’s website, a monitoring operation revealed that the initial shot fired from Hvalur 8 on September 7 struck a fin whale “outside the designated target area,” resulting in the animal’s failure to expire immediately.

Per newly-established regulations, the animal should have been dispatched with a subsequent shot without delay. However, the follow-up shot was not administered until approximately 30 minutes later, leading to the animal’s death a few minutes thereafter. The delay constitutes a violation of both animal welfare laws and long-line fishing regulations, according to MAST’s statement.

As noted by MAST, the suspension will remain in effect until corrective measures have been implemented and verified by both Mast and the Directorate of Fisheries (i.e. Fiskistofa).

Whaling Company Hvalur Ignores Permit Stipulations

The Directorate of Fisheries hasn’t received copies of diaries of whaling vessel captains working for the company Hvalur in 2014, 2015 and 2018, despite repeatedly asking for them, Vísir reports. The head of the Directorate of Fisheries says they do not have the legal wherewithal to force the whaling company to hand the information over.

When Hvalur obtained a permit from the directorate for the hunting of fin whales back in 2014, it came with the clear stipulation that captains of whaling vessels keep a diary pertaining to the extent of their whaling. This was done so that the directorate would be able to accurately observe Hvalur’s practices between 2014 and 2018, the years the company’s permit extended to.

During that time Hvalur hunted 436 fin whales without handing over any diaries to the Directorate of Fisheries.

Eyþór Björnsson, the head of the directorate, says that they have been in contact with Hvalur’s lawyers in hopes of securing the diaries, without luck. The government agency has previously rescinded permits of fishing vessels in breach of contract, but according to Eyþór, it can’t do so for whaling vessels as they fall under another legislation.

“We can only ask for the data,” a disappointed Eyþór says. “We can’t force them to hand it in and we can’t cancel their license.”

Despite this infraction, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, has extended Hvalur’s whaling permit to the year 2023.