No Fin To Worry About!

Before we discuss anything else, I will of course immediately apologise for the title of this article. It is questionable I grant you, but non the less, it does have a point to it. So, what could warrant such a title? The news that no Fin whales will be hunted in Iceland this summer.

Hooray! So, whilst we have a little celebration on hearing this news, do we know why? Well, it has come to light that the director of Iceland’s largest whaling company has announced that they will not be sending out any vessels to slaughter fin whales. Again, why? A sudden attack of conscience? An undeniable realisation that these whales are endangered and we should therefore be conserving, not hunting them? Well, in all honesty, and rather upsettingly, no. It is in fact, more to do with business, as whaling companies have been experiencing difficulties when trying to export whale meat to the Japanese market. Shame. What difficulties I hear you ask? Well, issues such as the fall in demand for whale meat and of course, the ever increasing international opposition to whaling. In addition, there is an apparent problem with Japan’s insistence on using chemical analysis tests on the whale meat, which is both outdated and apparently unnecessary as the whale meat travels with a certificate.

The fin whaling season traditionally begins in mid-June and last year, despite delays due to striking veterinary inspectors, the company killed 155 fin whales. Since whaling commenced in 2006, the total number of whales killed is thought to be around 706. This number is huge, especially when we consider that traditionally, Iceland does not even eat the meat from fin whales. Therefore, the whales that are being hunted are purely to satisfy the Japanese market. Despite this fact, it may be surprising to hear that   the amount of whale meat being consumed inJapan is falling and only 3% of Icelanders claim that they regularly consume the meat.

So, we know that fin whales are safe this summer, but unfortunately, there is no information on fin whaling beyond this summer and minke whaling is still scheduled to take place from May. Iceland, along with Norway, are the only two nations who totally ignore the International Whaling Commission’s ban on hunting whales, which came into effect in 1986. As most of us know, Japan, having found a legal loophole, still carries out whaling, claiming that it is done entirely for ‘scientific data’ collection. However, the opposition to whaling is apparently taking its toll on whaling companies. In 2014 for example, 2000 tonnes of whale meat was turned away from ports when its importation caused strikes and protests. Minke Whale
Minke Whale

So, for one season at least, fin whales are safe from this practice, but other species are still at threat. Whaling has long been a conservation problem and though the opposition to it is increasing, the practice is obviously still occurring, with hundreds of whales being slaughtered each year. However, on the flip side of this, whale watching is one of the top attractions in Iceland and generates around £10 million per annum and attracting around 20,000 tourists. It’s time we all started appreciating our whales in this manner and contributing to their conservation, rather than setting out to slaughter them.


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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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