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Iceland’s only whaler says unlikely to hunt this year

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Published: 13:51, 15 June 2024

Iceland’s only whaler says unlikely to hunt this year

Photo: Collected 

The head of Iceland's sole whaling company said Friday he was unlikely to hunt whales this year despite obtaining a government-issued licence this week for the 2024 season. Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only three countries that allow commercial whaling despite fierce opposition from animal rights activists.

On Tuesday, Iceland's Fisheries, Food and Agriculture Minister Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdottir granted Hvalur, the only whaling group left in Iceland, a licence to hunt 128 fin whales.

But Hvalur head Kristjan Loftsson said Friday the minister's decision came so late that he would probably not be able to ready his boats in time to hunt this season. Whaling in Iceland generally takes place between mid-June and September.

Loftsson applied for the licence in January after his previous five-year licence expired. "If she really thinks that you can start this kind of activity with a day's notice, then she is on a different planet than most Icelanders," Loftsson told Icelandic public broadcaster RUV.

"We haven't been able to prepare anything," he said. Whalers have struggled in recent years to meet their quotas.

Last year, the country suspended whaling for two months following a government-commissioned inquiry that concluded the methods used did not comply with animal welfare laws.

Monitoring by the government's veterinary agency showed that the hunters' explosive harpoons were causing the whales prolonged agony, with the hunt lasting up to five hours after they had been harpooned.

The shortened 2023 season, which lasted only three weeks, ended with 24 fin whales killed. The quota was for a total of 209 whales. Another company hung up its harpoons for good in 2020, saying it was no longer profitable.

The charity Humane Society International (HSI) has urged Iceland "to put an end to this needless cruelty for good".

"It is devastatingly disappointing that Minister Gunnarsdottir has set aside unequivocal scientific evidence demonstrating the brutality and cruelty of commercial whale killing and allowed whales to be killed for another year," Adam Peyman from HSI told AFP.

Peyman called the decision a "new shameful entry in the conservation history books".