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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Reykjavik’s maverick mayor speaks up for live whales

Three cheers for current mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, for being so refreshingly honest and open in his opinions, unfettered by the personal or corporate agendas which routinely bedevil most public figures who deliver only the party line and often leave us wondering how much, if anything, they genuinely mean.

Jon is a breath of fresh air in this respect: a recent posting on his Facebook page leaves no doubt about his stance on conservation and environmental issues. His post is short and to the point:

“Stop whaling fin whales. Stop killing polar bears. Stop seeing global warming as an “opportunity” for Iceland. Don’t drill for oil or gas. Focus on sustainable tourism and creative industries. Take a responsible lead in matters concerning global warming and the Arctic.”

In a later post, he states that Icelanders eat whale meat only rarely and that it is a misconception that Iceland has whaled for centuries (in fact only since 1948).  Whaling, says Gnarr, is a bad business idea and people should watch whales but not touch them.

Outspoken and creative, Jon was an actor, comedian and writer who tapped into widespread public disillusionment with politics and corruption following the 2008 banking collapse. In 2009, he created a new political party, Besti Flokkurinn (The Best Party) which openly took a swipe at the politicians and bankers who had presided over the previous economic chaos.  Six months later, his party won the 2010 city council election, defeating the Independence Party and stunning the establishment. Hence this maverick – anarchist, humanist, environmentalist – became mayor of Reykjavik.

Of course, a party established primarily to satirise the political ‘old guard’ – blamed by most for the economic meltdown – and thus effectively offering a ‘protest vote’, will have its share of detractors as well as avid supporters. Naturally, Gnarr and his party could not solve overnight the deep-seated problems in the Icelandic economy and the way Iceland does business: but what he has done is to rally support for the process of challenging the old ways. His term of office ends this summer, but my hope is that we will not lose his voice from public life. Those who have the courage to speak out and challenge corruption and cronyism should be treasured, as they are rare indeed.  We need more such.