Both supporters and opponents of whaling want the results of a new study, which measures the length of time from when an animal is harpooned to its time of death, released. Despite having announced earlier this past winter that the study would be published upon its completion, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, currently has no plans to release the results.
A Norwegian veterinarian spent the early summer months in Iceland working on the study on behalf of the Directorate of Fisheries. The project is co-sponsored by NAMMCO, the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission.
During a discussion of the study in Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, earlier this year Sigurður said: “Information is being gathered in the public interest, and therefore it will be made accessible to those who wish to be informed on the matter, that seems fairly obvious to me.”
However, when questioned by MP for the Left-Greens Katrín Jakobsdóttir on June 30 Sigurður declared that the results would not be published. No reason was cited for the decision.
The time it takes for whales to die after being harpooned has long been one of the key points in the debate on whether hunting them should be considered inhumane.
According to Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, managing director of the company Hrefnuveiðimenn ehf., whaling harpoons are equipped with powerful explosives which stop the whale’s heart immediately.
“I don’t think I have anything to be afraid of, if this information were to be published. It would only strengthen our case. What we have observed in these past few years is that the animals’ deaths are far from as lengthy or painful as has been claimed,” said Gunnar to visir.is.
Sigursteinn Másson, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) representative in Iceland, says it imperative that the results of the study be made public.
“There is no point in supervision and conducting research on Icelandic whaling, if the results will not be published,” said Sigursteinn. “Because of the secrecy surrounding whaling, it has been very difficult to get any unbiased information on the time it takes the animals to die. And it is of course very strange if the oversight that is meant to be in place will not bring that to light. Instead that and these results will be kept within NAMMCO’s exclusive club,” he added.