OPINION | Iceland’s only whaling company to resume operations

The Icelandic whaling ship Hvalur 8 (Photo: Sea Shepherd UK/Eilidh Watson)

News comes to us from Reykjavik that the Hvalur whaling company, Iceland’s only whaling operation, stands ready to recommence commercial whaling with an intention of taking as many as 209 fin whales, most of which are to be exported to Japan. At first sight the determination of Hvalur’s owner, Mr Kristjan Loftsson, to press ahead with the whaling program might appear somewhat odd.

Loftsson and his harpooners had, for three years, sat inactive on quotas of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales for the simple reason that there was no market for Iceland’s product and Mr Loftsson is far too close a devotee of the great free trade economist, Adam Smith, to release on to any of the world’s economic stages a product for which there is little or no demand.

But now Mr Loftsson detects an opening in the Atlantic cloud, an opportunity to revivify the whaling program that has stood idle of late. Japan’s whaling operation now confines itself to its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and, consequently, animals landed at ports such as Shimonoseki no longer serve fully to satisfy Japanese demand – enter Mr Loftsson with his proposal.

Other factors now are in his favor. Halvur’s lengthy and expensive pursuit of a new license for its meat processing plant has finally ended and the lengthy, expensive undertaking to insure the plant was not in any way contaminated by Covid-19 was complete.

To date, the country’s Prime Minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, the Fisheries Minister, Svandis Svavarsdottir have, in traditional manner, sought to straddle the issue, incorporating in their communication half-mentioned allusions to time to death and economic and environmental sustainability – issues that have been chewed over ad nauseam to the point where there is no meat left on the whale bone.

This need not be a matter of great concern to Mr Loftsson. He knows that his country’s political leaders, whatever their rhetoric, will not wish to be seen to be the tools of foreign NGO’s whose main intention is to use this island as a base for ever more aggressive fundraising.

Article reprinted with permission from the IWMC – World Conservation Trust.

Eugene Lapointe

Eugene Lapointe is the president of the IWMC World Conservation Trust and a former secretary-general of CITES.