In a recent interview with Skessuhorn, West Iceland’s weekly, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson suggested that perhaps Iceland should consider reduced whaling—not necessarily on principle, but for practical reasons.
“We here at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs have noticed first hand how Iceland is sometimes looked down upon because of [continued whaling],” Gunnar Bragi told Skessuhorn.
“Our partnership with the U.S. is very good on the whole, although whaling stands in the way of certain things. We have not been invited to some meetings and conferences regarding the ocean.”
Iceland was notable snubbed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at the State Department sponsored Our Ocean conference, held in Washington D.C. in June of last year.
“I do think, though, that we’re seeing some change now—as we are trying to think of solutions, substantiate our arguments, and do not minimize their concerns,” Gunnar Bragi added.
“We should not give up the right to take advantage of this resource we have, rather than any other. But it is food for thought, whether we shouldn’t compromise with the International Whaling Commission, for instance by hunting fewer animals each year.”
Gunnar Bragi has been in the past been dismissive, though diplomatic, of international criticism of Icelandic whaling—pointing out that many of the same countries taking a hard stance against Iceland’s whaling, have an atrocious record of human rights’ violations, and extremely lax environmental policies, endangering the entire globe.
“We believe that it is our right to hunt whales. There appears to be a market for whale products, although I’m not involved in that,” Gunnar Bragi told RÚV last year.
“We have demonstrated through the years that we practice sustainable fishing and sustainable use of our resources. Whaling is no different.”
This season’s whaling quota allows for the killing of 154 fin whales, and 229 minke whales.
The continued whaling of endangered fin whales has particularly been criticized, both in Iceland and abroad, as serving no purpose, since the market for its meat is extremely small.
Only the meat of the minke whale—whose endangerment is rated ‘of least concern’ by the IUCN—is sold on a commercial scale in Iceland, whether in restaurants or grocery stores.