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Icelandic tourist board backs end to whaling

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The man behind Iceland’s only fin whale hunting company has hit back at recent announcements from within the country that whaling could be ending for good, by hinting that he would like his whaling boats to go out again this summer.

Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur hf. has announced to Icelandic media that he expects the hunting to start in June but it remains to be seen if this will happen.

There has been no whaling in Iceland for the past three years and only weeks ago the country’s Fisheries Minister cast doubt over the return of the cruel hunts, a view backed up by the Icelandic tourist board.

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said that there is now little justification for authorising whaling, and with current permits to hunt due to run out in 2023, Svavarsdóttir’s comments cast serious doubt over any being issued after that date. She acknowledged that whaling has not had much economic significance for the national economy in recent years, and that there is little to justify allowing it to continue once permits expire.

She went on to say, ‘why should Iceland take the risk of maintaining fishing that has not yielded economic benefits in order to sell a product that is in low demand? All things being equal, there is little to justify allowing whaling after 2024’.

Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, executive director of the Icelandic Tourist Board, supports the minister's view that whaling needs to end, commenting: 'It is well-known that the tourism industry believes that whaling damages the image of Iceland as a tourist destination. All you have to do is look at the coverage of Icelandic whaling in foreign media.'  He continued: 'When we consider the fact that 80% of the tourists who come to Iceland say they come here to see and experience nature, it is obvious that [a resumption of whaling] will have a far-reaching effect.'

Vanessa Williams-Grey, who leads our campaign to end whaling in Iceland, commented: 'It is great to see Iceland's tourism industry standing shoulder to shoulder with fisheries minister. Icelanders are keenly aware of the importance of tourism - including whale watching - to their economy and they know that attracting tourists back after the pandemic is key.  Fin whaler Loftsson cuts an increasingly lonely and isolated figure by insisting on perpetuating a cruel industry which most Icelanders - as well as global citizens - want to see consigned to the history books.'

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