Whale Watching Boom in Iceland, Who Gets Blue Whale?

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Whale Watching Boom in Iceland, Who Gets Blue Whale?

A total of 175,000 people went whale watching in Iceland in 2012, up by 45,000 since 2011 and 100,000 since 2002, according to new numbers from the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF).

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Photo copyright Icelandic Photo Agency.

Ásbjörn Björgvinsson, operating director of travel agency Sérferðir and board member of the Icelandic Whale Watching Association, told Fréttablaðið that it is remarkable that 35 percent of all tourists in Iceland choose to go whale watching.

“There are 15-16 companies offering whale watching tours this summer from many new locations,” Ásbjörn said. “To demonstrate the growth, the year-over-year increase is comparable to the total passenger count in 2000.”

Whale watching specialist Carole Carlson believes the opportunities of the industry in Iceland lie in creating a joint policy with sustainability in mind.

Húsavík in Northeast Iceland, which claims to be the whale watching capital of Europe, recently acquired a new schooner, Opal, which was built in Damgarten, Germany, in 1952.

The 32-meter schooner, which has sleeping facilities for 12 passengers, will not only be used for whale watching but also longer tours, such as along the Greenlandic coast.

In related news, the future location of the skeleton of the blue whale that drifted ashore on Skagi in North Iceland in 2010 is disputed.

“It is not for the Icelandic Institute of Natural History to decide where the skeleton goes but the Ministry of Education,” Minister of Education and Culture Katrín Jakobsdóttir told Fréttablaðið.

The Whale Museum in Húsavík has made claim to the skeleton whereas the Icelandic Institute of Natural History states that it is to be displayed in Perlan in Reykjavík.

However, Katrín maintains that Húsavík is the first choice. “Talks will probably resume with Húsavík once the process of drying the bones comes to an end. But their ideas of a building to facilitate the skeleton are in the initial stages. They have to explain the funding.”

Related:

12.04.2013 | Blue Whale Skeleton Put on Display in Iceland

ESA