Icelandic Company Hvalur has resumed the hunt and slaughter of endangered fin whales, mostly because there is no way to enforce the current ban on the hunt of these wonderful creatures. An international moratorium was passed in 2006 to save this species, but Japan and Iceland have both decided that it doesn’t apply to them.
The first hunt of the season was a 20-meter (66-foot) fin whale. To kill it they used a grenade harpoon. The harpoon has an explosive canister that detonates when the harpoon is approximately half a meter (1.6 feet) into the poor animal. Fin whales are the second largest animal in the world, and 238 of these whales are expected to be killed during this season.
“Fin whales are highly migratory, endangered and protected by a number of international treaties,” said Susan Millward, director of Marine Programs for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), in a press release. “The fin whales cruelly targeted by Icelandic grenade harpoons could be the same animals seen by tourists in places such as Ireland and the Azores. This slaughter comes at the expense of Iceland’s own whale watch industry and also threatens the livelihoods of people thousands of miles away.”
The economic argument is the one that has been getting more coverage lately when it comes to the hunt of endangered species. Ecotourism is worth a lot more to the economy of a country than killing off whales or sharks. It is not surprising that Hvalur, according to the NGO Environmental Investigation Agency, has not made a profit for awhile.
Whaling has lost support in Iceland, but the government has not taken any steps to ban this practice. Icelandic people don’t really eat whale, so what’s hunted by Hvalur is instead exported to Japan to be sold for food and “medical” supplements. The export contravenes the ban on international trade in whale meat by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“It is unfathomable in this day and age that a country so well known for its nature tourism is tarnishing its image by allowing commercial whaling to continue in the face of growing domestic and international opposition,” Clare Perry, ocean campaigns leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency, stated. “We are urging the Icelandic Government to recognize that this unnecessary and unsustainable industry brings no real benefits to Iceland’s economy and to refuse further whaling quotas.”
The latest report shows that 34 percent of Icelandic people support whaling, 34 percent are against, and the rest are neither for nor against.