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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
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...

No brainer in Faxafloi Bay – whale watching trumps whaling every time

I have pleasure in introducing a guest blog by Icelander Kris Hjalmarsson, who comments on the increasing conflict of interest between the whale watch community and the whalers. These industries are polar opposites yet each operates in Faxafloi Bay, outside Reykjavik, home to a species targeted by both factions: the minke whale. Below, Kris explains how whaling is threatening to ruin whale watching – an industry that is helping to rebuild Iceland’s economy and which offers an ‘ icing on the cake’ experience to thousands of tourists each year.

The Icelandic whale watching industry has an adversarial relationship with those who set out to hunt and kill a slow, friendly and curious swimmer that just so happens to love being in the company of humans. Thanks to its naturally friendly and curious tendencies, the minke whale has helped spawn an industry embraced by tourists from around the world. With its astounding scenery and pure, clean ocean, the Icelandic whale watching industry has seen tremendous growth and much gratitude is owed to this amazing creature that loves to come right up to your boat and give watchers the experience of a lifetime.

On the opposite side are those who prefer to harpoon this slow and friendly creature and drag it to shore to be flensed and then placed into freezer storage – with no significant market to justify the killing.

The relative economic values of these industries, currently on a head-on collision course, are obvious when the two are compared side by side. Compared to whaling, the whale watch industry has gone from literally nothing to becoming a major revenue stream for the Icelandic economy in just two decades. Tourists that are far from cash-strapped pour money into the local economy – currently generating four billion Icelandic króna in foreign exchange – and that money recycles itself over and over. It’s an enormous economic boon.

However, whale watch tour operators are seeing changes in the behaviour of the minke whales which are starting to impact their business. The minke whales are at the very heart of the local whale watching industry, yet they are showing behavioural changes that stem not from the whale watching, but from the brutal kill tactics of the hunters. The minkes are starting to show a loss of trust and rightfully so. They are intelligent creatures and they know they are being picked off, one by one . Murdered in close proximity to one another with vicious harpoons, tipped with explosives. It becomes easy to see why they are starting to shy away from humans. Their trust is being betrayed. 

The economic forces in play will likely be the ultimate decider as to whether the whaling continues. As far as I can see, it‘s not that difficult to reach a decision based upon logic. Let the money speak for itself, as it seems to be a very strong motivator. If this four billion króna revenue stream – from wealthy tourists that love whale watching – dries up, the local Reykjavik economy will soon start circling the drain.