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Hunts to return in Iceland as bleak summer for whales looms

After a long wait, the decision on whether fin whale hunts in Iceland can go...

Hunts to return in Iceland as bleak summer for whales looms

Icelandic hunting vessels in port

After a long wait, the decision on whether fin whale hunts in Iceland can go ahead this summer has been made by the government there today, and it is devastating news for the whales.

Following months of deliberation around considerable welfare issue that continue to plague the hunts, the Icelandic authorities have granted a one-year fin whaling licence to whalers.

We scrutinised the suffering inflicted on fin whales during the 2022 and 2023 hunts and provided our report to the Icelandic government. They have ignored the evidence.

More recently, the government’s own updated assessment showed how whales continue to suffer in these hunts, so allowing permits this summer seems bizarre.

Last year’s hunts where drastically shortened, finishing with a final total of 23 whales killed, 1 unborn calf killed and 1 whale lost. They were reduced due to the suspension of hunting permits by Iceland’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries at the start of the summer because of animal welfare violations in the previous 2022 hunt.

The Food and Veterinary Authority suspended the hunting permit of one of the two whaling ships (Hvalur 8). When firing a harpoon, whalers on Hvalur 8 missed the recommended “designated target area”, on a hunted fin whale, which is meant to ensure the whale dies instantly. This whale then suffered for more than 30 minutes before he or she was shot again.

Based on the evidence seen during the brief return to whaling, hunting conditions have not improved since the welfare led whaling suspension.

In recent years Kristján Loftsson, owner of the Hvalur hf. whaling company, has struggled to find a market for the whale meat, with some even ending up as dog food in Japan. Hvalur hf. has exported more than 13,738 tonnes of fin whale since 2008.

We will continue our work with partners in Iceland to seek and end to the hunts for good.