Japan Crisis Disrupts Iceland’s Fin Whaling

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Japan Crisis Disrupts Iceland’s Fin Whaling

Fin whaling will not commence as planned this summer because of the condition of the Japanese market—the main market for Icelandic fin whale meat—after the country was hit by massive earthquakes and a tsunami in March.

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A slain fin whale. Kristján Loftsson (left) and former Minister of Fisheries Einar K. Gudfinnsson. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Kristján Loftsson, managing director of whaling company Hvalur hf., told Morgunbladid the situation will be reviewed in late summer or fall. Loftsson has just returned from Japan where he familiarized himself with the post-crisis situation there.

The Japanese are not only struggling with the aftermath of the earthquakes and tsunami, which claimed thousands of victims and made approximately 500,000 people homeless, but also the risk of serious radioactivity from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

Loftsson said the Japanese are showing solidarity with one another. Those who weren’t directly impacted by the catastrophe don’t go out to have fun and don’t eat at restaurants but rather have simple food at home, he described.

“There is no use for us to try and sell whale under these circumstances,” Loftsson commented. Also, three companies that have taken part in the import and processing of Hvalur’s fin whale meat were destroyed in the disaster.

The owners are trying to find new locations for their businesses but the progress is slow. “No one knows for how long this situation will last,” Loftsson added.

Last year’s fin whaling season commenced on June 26. Now the season won’t begin until late August or September and it is uncertain whether any fin whales will be caught this year at all. Hvalur employs 15 people in the winter and 150 in the summer.

“This is bad news,” commented Mayor of Akranes Árni Múli Jónasson. Considerable interests are at stake for the municipality, he said, tens of residents are employed either at the whaling station in Hvalfjördur or the meat processing plant in town.

“We can only hope that the situation will improve and wish Kristján the best of luck. He is not one to give up,” Jónasson added.

Kate O’Connell, WDCS anti-whaling campaigner said in a press release, "It is too soon to claim victory, and Iceland's whales still face the threat of harpoons. In 2007, Iceland declared that it was ending commercial whaling, only to come back with a vengeance in 2009, targeting more whales and increasing exports. We must remain vigilant, and not let the whalers lull the world into a false sense that all is well."

WDCS has been leading efforts in the US to urge the Obama Administration to impose sanctions on Iceland for its whaling and trade in whale products in defiance of IWC and CITES bans.

Click here to read more about that story and here to read a recent story related to the Japan disaster.