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Whale Nation: Changing minds and winning hearts in Iceland

I’m  really happy  to announce the launch of our new campaign for Iceland: Whale Nation  and I’m particularly pleased that we have the support of Game of Thrones star, Jerome Flynn, as I’m a big fan!


Whale Nation is a rallying call to all those Icelanders who love whales – and those of us outside who want to support them – to join a ‘people’s movement’ to celebrate the 20+ species of whale and dolphin which make their home in the waters around Iceland.

Iceland is so much more than its whaling and it’s time that this beautiful island was no longer defined by it. Two whalers – out of a third of a million people. That speaks volumes for the potential for change and for a new relationship with whales.

It feels good to be working on a campaign that is the polar opposite of most anti-whaling campaigns yet moves towards the same goal: that of ending the hunts.  This time, rather than banner waving or pointing a finger at the whalers, we want to join with those within Iceland who are already alive to the magic of whales – both in terms of their intangible ‘specialness’ as well as their very tangible value to the tourism economy – and also reach out to those who remain undecided as to which side they are on in the whaling debate.

For make no mistake, it is the ‘undecideds’ who hold the lives of whales in their hands. At the moment, 31% of the Icelandic electorate has yet to make up their mind whether they support or oppose whaling and that is a significant minority.  Iceland’s government is currently pro-whaling but they take their lead from the mood of the electorate and this is where we have the chance to bat on behalf of the whales.

Time and again, I’ve heard people come out with the same tired refrain: whales must be culled because they eat all the fish; there’s plenty of whales so our hunts are sustainable; tourist demand means we need to kill more whales, and so it goes on. All these arguments are refutable – but what is irrefutable is that whale watching is infinitely more valuable to the Icelandic economy than whaling.

And each dead whale means one fewer to be watched.

Yes, we want to focus upon inspiration – but we also want to focus upon education.  Combined, they bring the possibility of changing minds – as well as winning hearts – in Iceland.

The inspiration for our campaign comes from a website recently launched by a longstanding friend of WDC, Kris Hjalmarsson. As an Icelander currently living in the US, Kris feels passionately about whales and is saddened that the reputation of his homeland has suffered on account of its whaling.  Kris invites visitors to his site to sign up in support of Iceland as a Whale Nation rather than a whaling nation.

We hope WDC supporters will stand shoulder to shoulder with those within Iceland who love whales and want to protect them. Please sign the petition on our website – and then please sign the pledge on the English pages on Kris’ site. 

This is our chance to create a Whale Nation that may truly help to save the whale nation in Iceland’s waters.


About Vanessa Williams-Grey

Policy manager - Stop Whaling and Responsible Whale Watching