Iceland drags back first fin whale of season

whaler dragging a fin whale carcass

The first harpooned fin whale of the season has been dragged back to Iceland. (photo credit: IFAW)

After just a couple of days at sea the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf have dragged back to port their first harpooned fin whale of the season. Tow boats left port at Reykjavik on Sunday and the first arrived at the Hvalfjordur whaling station with a fin whale strapped to its side yesterday, Tuesday 18th June.

The whale was the first Fin whale to be harpooned by Hvalur hf for three years after the fin whale meat market in Japan collapsed following the tsunami disaster. The human market for the meat was so weak that Hvalur hf had planned to supply the meat to the dog treat market. Following a public outcry over the plans the owner of the dog food company, Michinoku Farms, said they would not be using any Icelandic fin whale meat in their products.

Takuma Konno, President of Michinoku Farms, said “Maybe I was ignorant of the debate (about whaling), but it’s not worth selling the product if it risks disturbing some people,” [pullquote]It is a very sad day seeing these images and knowing that this endangered animal has suffered a cruel death, only to be cut up for meat that nobody needs.[/pullquote]

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “It is a very sad day seeing these images and knowing that this endangered animal has suffered a cruel death, only to be cut up for meat that nobody needs.

“It is time that this dying industry was ended. We urge the Icelandic government to listen to its whale watching and tourism operators and many members of the public both within and outside Iceland and recognise that slaughtering whales is uneconomic as well as inhumane. Whale watching brings greater benefit to coastal communities.”

IFAW is continuing its ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland, encouraging tourists visiting the country to support responsible whale watching but to avoid sampling whale meat.

Iceland is one of Europe’s top destinations for whale watching and last year attracted 175,000 whale watchers.

Kristjan Loftsson who owns Hvalur hf has said that his company plans to target up to 180 fin whales for this season. This is made up from the published quota of 154 fin whales plus an extra 20% because no fin whales were targeted for the last 2 years.

The five year fin whale quota plan is due to end this year but there is a clause that allows the harpooning of fin whales in 2014 if the full quota of killings are not completed by the end of 2013.