The Don’t Buy From Icelandic Whalers campaign, an alliance of 14 conservation and animal protection groups including WDC, has reacted with dismay to the news that Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur will resume fin whaling and with skepticism to the news that Hvalur has abruptly sold its shares in seafood giant, HB Grandi to Brim, another major Icelandic seafood company, on the eve of a major fishing industry trade expo.
The sell-off coincides with Hvalur’s announcement that it plans to resume hunting endangered fin whales this summer, following a two-year hiatus. As many as 239 fin whales could be killed. It also comes just days before the 2018 Seafood Expo Global event in Brussels, where major seafood purchasing agreements are signed.
Campaigners regard the share sell-off as a cynical move on the part of Iceland’s sole fin whaler, and Hvalur CEO, Kristján Loftsson, to take the heat off HB Grandi at the major seafood event by very publicly cutting ties between the seafood company and the whalers—while Loftsson quietly retains almost a quarter of a million personal shares in HB Grandi and remains as chair of the Grandi board of directors.
A trans-atlantic campaign to expose the close links between HB Grandi and fin whaling has been hugely successful, with retailers and consumers alike making clear their opposition to seafood tainted by links to whaling. In previous years, the coalition has used the Expo to highlight which major European seafood buyers have stated their opposition to commercial whaling and confirmed through supply chain audits that they do not source from individuals, vessels or companies linked to whaling.
Hvalur recently sparked global outrage when it announced plans to use fin whale meat, blubber and bones in iron supplements and other medicinal or food products. Vanessa Williams-Grey, WDC policy manager stated: “This really is a paper-thin excuse to keep fin whaling alive. There is no justification for killing an endangered species for any reason, let alone in the name of ‘medicine.’ These whales often die in agony, and for what? A quack supplement with no proven benefit or safety record?”
Taryn Kiekow Heimer, deputy director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “The public needs to know about the links between some seafood companies and the slaughter of whales. We will continue to keep pressure on these companies and shine a light on those who bring harm to the endangered fin whale.”
Clare Perry, ocean campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “It is no coincidence that the sale of Hvalur shares in HB Grandi comes on the heels of the announcement that the killing of endangered fin whales is about to resume, with the highest quotas in years.”
Susan Millward, director of marine animal programs for the Animal Welfare Institute, noted that consumers overwhelmingly reject commercial whaling as a cruel and unnecessary industry: ”Public opinion polls have repeatedly shown that the public does not want to buy seafood from companies linked to whaling. HB Grandi has faced a mounting consumer backlash due to its ties to the whaling industry.”
Due to the size of the transaction and its potential impact on fishing quotas, the sale of Hvalur shares is currently under review by a number of Icelandic government agencies, including the Competition Authority and the Fisheries Directorate.