Iceland’s government has issued a licence to hunt whales. The licence for the 2024 hunting season allows the Hvalur company to kill 128 fin whales.

The government said the company was now permitted to hunt “99 whales in the Greenland/West Iceland region and 29 whales in the East Iceland/Faroe Islands region, totalling 128 whales”.

A recent report by Whale and Dolphin Conservation delivered to the Iceland government details the reasons why they believe whaling licences should not be granted, which range from ethical concerns and a lack of economic impact, to failure to adhere to international commitments.

The Icelandic government said the licence to Hvalur “is valid for the 2024 hunting season”. Árni Finnsson of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association told Mongabay that this is the first time the Icelandic government has granted a licence that only lasted for a year, and that the whaling quota was below what it had been in previous years.

Photo: Hard to Port

Fin whales, the second-largest mammal in the world, are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Criticism from both sides

Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur, does not expect to hunt fin whales this summer despite a newly issued permit, reports. Citing a lack of preparation time and predictability, Kristján has criticised the government for deliberately making whaling difficult and calls the permit insufficient for operational needs.

The decision by the Icelandic government has been heavily criticised by campaigners. The Environmental Investigation Agency Senior Ocean Advisor Clare Perry said: “The Minister had an opportunity here to unambiguously relegate Iceland’s whaling to the history books for good and abide by international law, but has regrettably failed to do so.

“It’s an incomprehensible decision for a supposedly progressive country to take — there is zero economic justification for Iceland’s whaling”

Japan to hunt fin whales too

The whaling season in Iceland usually lasts from June to September and most of the whale meat is exported to Japan.

Japan also announced recently that it will start hunting fin whales and other whale species. Japan will be using a brand new $48 million “mother ship” for whaling in the ocean around Antarctica. The Kangei Maru ship is bigger and faster than its predecessor, the company says, and is equipped with state-of-the-art drones able to travel a reported 100 km to allow crews of smaller boats to quickly locate and kill whales.

Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only three nations that continue to allow commercial whaling.

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