Iceland’s government has halted this year’s whale hunt until the end of August due to concerns about animal welfare. The Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandis Svavarsdottir, announced the suspension of all whaling operations following a government-ordered report. The report concluded that the hunt does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act. Svandis Svavarsdottir stated, “This activity cannot continue in the future if the authorities and the license holders cannot ensure the fulfillment of the welfare requirements.”
Whaling involves hunting and killing whales, with commercial whaling specifically targeting whales for the purpose of selling various whale-derived products such as meat, oil, and blubber. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an organization responsible for whale conservation, implemented a ban on commercial whaling due to the near-extinction of certain whale species. However, Iceland, Norway, and Japan objected to the ban and have continued whaling in various capacities.
The actions of these countries have drawn criticism from animal welfare activists and environmentalists. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which last assessed fin whales in 2018, classifies them as vulnerable primarily because of the historical impact of commercial whaling during the 20th century.
There appears to be declining interest in whaling. Iceland currently has only one remaining whaling company, Hvalur, and its license to hunt fin whales will expire in 2023. Another company ceased whale hunts in 2020, citing financial unviability. While there is still a demand for whale meat in Japan, Iceland’s ability to sell its meat to Japan was affected by Japan’s resumption of commercial whaling in 2019.