Late last night, I sat at my kitchen table monitoring Icelandic vessel traffic online – a vigil made somewhat less lonely by the knowledge that my counterpart in the US, whaling campaigner Kate O’Connell, was doing the exact same thing. Despite Kristjan Loftsson’s recent assertions that he would resume fin whaling this year after two summers without putting to sea, my heart still sank as the website suddenly flashed up ‘underway’ to indicate that Kristjan Loftsson’s two whaling vessels, the Hvalur 8 and 9, had left port and were heading for the open sea.
This first fin whaling tour since 2010 made tv news in Iceland and the image of those boats gliding silently out of Reykjavik harbour had a sinister feel. I contacted our friends at Elding Whale Watching and they reported that they had been overtaken by the fin whaling boats as they took passengers out for an evening whale watch cruise. I can only imagine how bleak they must have felt as they took people out to watch live whales whilst knowing that those ominous-looking vessels had a far deadlier mission. Elding reported that the whalers would likely be travelling far out to sea in search of fin whales, maybe 170 or more miles out, in the waters between Iceland and Greenland.
There is a grain of comfort in the report that this time, very few people stood on the pier as the fin whalers left. It was a different story last time: in 2010, the pier was crowded with people cheering the vessels as they set off.
As support for the whalers wanes within Iceland, I fervently hope that the voices of those of us fighting to save the whales can be heard: ever louder.