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Humpback and calf

Today sees the publication of a new paper stating that, as humpback whale populations in Australian waters are increasing, a case can be made for downlisting their conservation status.  

I don’t propose to review here the many and complex mechanisms in play when it comes to determining whether a whale or dolphin population is recovering sufficiently to trigger a review of its conservation status (we will be covering this in a separate blog), but clearly these did not trouble Icelandic whaler, Kristjan Loftsson for an instant, judging by an interview published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald. 

Cutting to the chase, quite literally, Loftsson declared that there’s only one solution to the ‘problem’ of more humpbacks: hunt them. In his opinion, rather than opposing whaling in the international courts (a dig at last year’s successful case at the International Court of Justice which exposed Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ programme as a sham), Australia should instead start its own hunt off the Queensland coast.

“You have about 30,000 humpbacks in Australia going up the east coast. Thirty thousand animals travelling back and forth and they increase maybe 10 per cent a year. They’re a nuisance.”

“In 10 years’ time it will be 60,000. You will have to close the port of Brisbane and make everybody bankrupt. [There will be] more strandings of whales all over the place in Australia. It’s ridiculous thinking.”

Warming to his theme, Loftsson added: “I don’t care less. I went whaling myself in Australia once in 1977, out of Albany. All these guys in the [International] Whaling Commission … haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Where is this f****** world opinion [against whaling]? Have you ever seen an opinion poll taken around the world?”

Meanwhile, back in Iceland, his theme echoes a comment made only last week by Loftsson’s crony,  MP Jon Gunnarsson (father of Iceland´s last remaining minke whaler, Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson) who raised the spectre of resuming humpback whaling in Iceland – a subject last aired in August 2013. Rubbishing Foreign Affairs Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson’s recent suggestion that Iceland should reconsider its whaling, in light of international criticism, Gunnarsson declared: “I think it’s even true that we can increase whaling in Iceland. The humpback stock has grown considerably in recent years and is now believed to have reached 20,000, which is of great concern to me and others.”

Whilst few will take Kristjan Loftsson’s comments on Australia’s humpbacks seriously, it is important to note, as regards Jon Gunnarson’s proposal, that humpback whales have not been killed in Icelandic waters for around 60 years.  Whilst a few are taken in indigenous hunts elsewhere, this species is not hunted either commercially or for scientific purposes anywhere else in the world. Humpbacks are protected by international conventions and there is no doubt that Iceland will face a barrage of international criticism, should it sanction such a hunt.

 Support our campaign to end whaling in Iceland, and instead, celebrate Iceland as a Whale Nation

About Vanessa Williams-Grey

Policy manager - Stop Whaling and Responsible Whale Watching