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Success! Fin whaling in Iceland is suspended after officials say hunts are unlawful

Icelandic Fisheries Minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir has called off this season’s fin whale hunt! 

The Icelandic government has suspended all fin whaling, with immediate effect, until at least the end of August, on the grounds that it breaks Iceland’s own animal welfare laws. On top of this, no new licences have been issued for 2024 onwards.

After decades of campaigning and a lot of hard work behind the scenes, this really looks like it might be the end of whaling in Iceland.

Most Icelandic people now oppose whaling, and we are proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with them to send the Icelandic government a powerful message - the slaughter of whales is not acceptable.

Around 150 fin whales have been saved this year
Around 150 fin whales have been saved this year

The decision follows the release yesterday by its own Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST - the country's expert council on animal welfare) of a report that concluded last year's hunt season was unlawful because it fell below standards set out in the Icelandic Animal Welfare Act.

The report left the Icelandic government in a tricky situation, but it has decided to side with its own department, uphold the law and prevent whaling from going ahead until at least the 31st August, despite pressure from the one remaining fin whaling company in Iceland.

The future of the hunts is now in serious doubt following comments from Iceland’s minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir. ‘I have taken the decision to temporarily stop whaling in light of the strong opinion of the professional council on animal welfare. The conditions of the law on animal welfare are in my mind inescapable, if the government and license holders cannot guarantee welfare requirements, this activity has no future.' says Svandís in the announcement.

The ministry will now examine possible improvements and the legal conditions for imposing further restrictions on hunting based on the Animal Welfare Act and the Whaling Act in the coming months and will seek the opinion of experts and license holders for that purpose.

Aside from the issues with the killing methods, the MAST report’s expert panel also concluded that it is not possible to determine the sex of a whale from the ship or whether they are about to kill a pregnant female or a lactating mother with a calf. The chances of surviving for motherless whale calves are negligible. Hunting is also not possible without following the whales for some time before shooting, which causes stress and fear, and killing them is not possible in a quick and painless manner.

Together with our partner organisation Hard To Port, we recently alerted government officials to violations of animal welfare laws in the Icelandic fin whale hunt. Government officials have been confronted with evidence that in many cases the explosive charges of the harpoons used do not detonate when fired at the fin whales, and the whales are subjected to an agonizing ordeal. This led to the government ordering mandatory monitoring on whaling vessels by vets. Their report has since been published revealing appalling video footage exposing the enormous cruelty of the hunts, with some whales suffering for up to two hours after being shot with a harpoon.

Luke McMillan stop whaling campaigner at WDC says:  'This is a major success for our campaign to stop whaling in Iceland and could now finally bring an end to the slaughter there, moreover this decision could also pave the way to the cessation of whaling in Norway and Japan.

'Alongside our partners we have been exposing the cruelty involved in these hunts and, to their credit, the Icelandic authorities have listened. This decisive action sends a powerful message that the deliberate killing of whales is no longer acceptable. The  suspension is a significant step forward in the global movement to enable whales to flourish in the ocean as our climate and biodiversity heroes.’

Despite fin whales being classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and a lack of demand for the meat, whalers killed 148 fin whales last year.

Please make a donation to help us stop whaling in Iceland permanently


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