Around 65 percent of Iceland’s minke whaling catch is sold to local restaurants, says Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, owner of the Hrafnreyður (‘Minke Whale’), one of two whaling ships that will be operated this summer. The rest of the catch is sold to local grocery stores. In an interview with RÚV, Gunnar explained that four minke whales have been caught so far, although he hopes a total of 50 will be caught before the season’s end. This total would be up from the 46 whales caught last year.
Iceland’s whaling season began on June 8 and local whaling quotas allow for 269 minke whales to be caught this year, although only about 50 will likely be hunted. Whalers are also permitted to catch 175 fin whales, which used to be exported directly to Japan, but just like last summer, no such hunting is planned by Icelanders this summer,because of how difficult it is to bring the meat to market in Japan.
Around 100 restaurants in the country serve whale steak, half of them all year-round, and sales of whale meat have gone up in local supermarkets as well, RÚV reports. According to a report by Al Jazeera, this increased demand can be attributed to Iceland’s booming tourism industry. A 2016 Gallup poll shows, for instance, that 81 percent of Icelanders said they had not purchased whale meat in the last 12 months, whereas a survey by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) showed that 12 percent of tourists ate whale meat during a visit to Iceland last summer.
With 1.8 million visitors in 2016, and more projected to arrive this year, it’s seems likely that the high demand for whale meat in Iceland will continue.