The overall minke whaling quota in Iceland this year is 216 animals; the season is set to start next month. The extension to apply for minke whaling permits at the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture expires on April 4.
A minke whaler. Archive photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“We have applied for permits and are preparing the boat. Our goal is to start whaling in the latter part of April,” Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, managing director of Hrefnuveiðimenn ehf. which operates the minke whaling boat Hrafnreyður KÓ-100, told Morgunblaðið.
Gunnar’s company caught 53 minke whales last year. Only three other whaling boat operators applied for minke whaling permits in 2011. Gunnar said he expects to increase his catch somewhat this year.
“The sale was fairly successful last year. All of the meat was sold but we don’t hunt anything in excess of demand. Everything goes to the domestic market,” Gunnar said.
Most of the minke goes to grocery stores but a large share also ends up in restaurants. “[Demand] has been growing slowly but surely. We are always trying to enlarge the market and use more of the animal,” Gunnar added.
His company has processing facilities in Hafnarfjörður outside Reykjavík where smoked and cured minke meat is prepared, along with three kinds of marinated meat.
Minke whaling mostly takes place in the height of summer although the season is six months.
Gunnar’s company is mainly active in Faxaflói bay off Reykjavík and to the south of the country but this summer he also expects to expand the area to Breiðafjörður in the west.
No fin whales were hunted in Iceland last year due to recession in the Japanese market.