Iceland’s last whaling company plans to hunt this summer

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Reykjavik (AFP) – Iceland’s last whaling company said on Wednesday it plans to hunt this summer for the first time since 2018, as the government mulls a possible end to whaling.

“I can confirm that we are planning to go out to sea this summer. The whales are waiting for us,” Kristjan Loftsson, head of the Hvalur whaling company, told AFP.

Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries in the world to continue whaling, in the face of fierce criticism from environmentalists and animal rights activists.

Over the past three whaling seasons – which run from mid-June to late September in Iceland – Hvalur’s harpoons have gone unused despite annual quotas of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales for the period 2019-2023.

Japan is Iceland’s main market for whale meat, especially that of fin whales.

But demand for Iceland’s catch has fallen significantly since Japan returned to commercial whaling in 2019 after a three-decade hiatus.

The extension of a no-take coastal zone, forcing Icelandic whalers to go even further offshore, has also made hunting less profitable, as have complications affecting the processing of whale meat under Covid restrictions. .

Loftsson also blamed his three-year hiatus in part on a protracted battle with Icelandic food authorities over a new license for his processing plant, which was finally granted in October 2021.

He said he was optimistic about the possibility of selling his whale meat in the Japanese market, which accounts for more than 90% of Hvalur’s exports.

In 2018, Hvalur killed 146 fin whales.

Only one whale, a Minke, has been killed in Iceland since then.

In early February, Fisheries Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said the government was considering ending whaling from 2024, citing falling demand and little economic gain.

“We need to be sure that (whaling) has positive economic impacts for the Icelandic economy before making the decision to go ahead after 2023,” she told AFP.

His ministry must carry out an economic, environmental and image impact study this year before deciding whether or not to issue new whaling quotas for 2024.

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