Whaling Has Little Economic Impact on Iceland

hvalur whaling in iceland

Whaling in Iceland has little direct impact on the Icelandic economy. Whaling has not turned a profit in recent years for Hvalur hf., the only company that has been whaling commercially in Iceland in the recent past. While people abroad almost always see Iceland’s participation in whaling in a negative light, those views do not seem to have a measurable negative effect on Iceland’s economy, neither affecting the sale or export of Icelandic goods nor Iceland’s popularity as a tourist destination.

These are the conclusions of a report on the economic impact of whaling in Iceland, written by consulting company Intellecon for the Ministry of Fisheries, Food, and Agriculture. The report only considers whaling’s direct economic impact on Iceland; not biological, regional, or political factors. Neither does it consider the ecological impact of the practice.

Less than 1% of total seafood export

According to data gathered by the report’s authors, the export of whale products has never amounted to more than 0.6% of the total export value of seafood from Iceland – that record was reached in 2016. Despite not being an economically significant industry, however, whaling is important for the individuals it employs, who earn a higher salary whaling and processing whale meat than they would in most other industries. It bears noting, however, that the work is shift work and seasonal, usually lasting four months per year. Around 120 people worked on processing whale meat last season and the average salary of those whaling and processing whale meat was between ISK 1.7-2 million per month [$12,900, €11,800].

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The report details various difficulties in selling whale products due to restrictions and other factors. It mentioned that “It has been difficult to get permission to sell the whale meal, e.g. in feed for pigs, as it has not met the conditions for such use.” While Hvalur hf. has burned whale oil on its ships, “Selling it for other uses has proven impossible, in part due to trade barriers on whale products.”

Hvalur hf. has only hunted fin whales in recent years, and their meat has only been sold to Japan. The consumption of whale meat has decreased rapidly there, from 233,000 tonnes in 1962 to only 1-2,000 tonnes in 2021 and 2022. Transporting whale products has also proven difficult in recent years due to pressure from organisations that campaign against whaling and the reluctance of governments to permit the transport of whale products through their countries. As a result, whale meat from Iceland has been transported to Japan across the northerly route, north of Russia and Siberia. Conditions on the route are difficult and require collaboration with Russian icebreakers.

Future of whaling decided this month

While people abroad view Iceland’s whaling in a negative light, the report did not find that these views had any negative economic impact that could be measured. They neither made it more difficult to sell Icelandic products abroad nor did they reduce Iceland’s popularity as a tourist destination.

Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir implemented a temporary ban on whaling on June 20, the day before the whaling season was set to begin. The ban expires at the end of August. Svandís has stated that a decision on the continuation of the controversial practice will be made public before the end of the month.

Walrus Follows Man to Work in Iceland

Jón Sólmundsson rostungur

An employee of Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute had an unusual commute to work this morning. Jón Sólmundsson was biking to his office in the town of Hafnarfjörður when he spotted a walrus in the harbour. The walrus then accompanied Jón on his journey for a few blocks before swimming away from the coast. It has since come ashore on the coast of Álftanes in the Reykjavík capital area, Vísir reports.

Jón Sólmundsson.

“I was biking and he followed me from Herjólfsgata street to Fjörukráin restaurant by Strandgata street,” Jón told reporters. “There he turned around and swam out into the fjord.” Walruses are not native to Iceland but have been spotted on its coast from time to time in recent years. A walrus dubbed Þór (Thor) delighted locals in Iceland earlier this year, stopping by Þórshöfn and Breiðdalsvík in East Iceland after being spotted in England. There are no indications that the one currently in the capital area is the same animal.

 

 

“He was also curious, there were some people that stopped to watch him and he seemed to be considering them too,” Jón added. While Jón works at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, he told reporters his area of specialty is fish, not walruses.

jón sólmundsson walrus rostungur

A live feed of the walrus is available on visir.is.