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Iceland announces plan to hunt 25 minke whales

1st June 2004

U.S. Newswire

Iceland plans to kill up to 25 minke whales this summer, according to a statement released today by Fisheries Minister Arni Mathieson.

Iceland kills minke whales as part of its study of local marine ecosystems. The scientific value of the program is debated by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare ), which points both to non-lethal alternatives and to the fact that whale meat from the program is sold commercially in Iceland's supermarkets and restaurants.

Demand for whale meat, however, is weak. Of the 35 tons of meat landed last year 23 tons are still unsold. Markets abroad are also closed, and a recent permit for export of whale meat to China has been withdrawn by the authorities in Iceland.

"This is a move in the right direction," said Fred O'Regan, president and CEO of IFAW. "We welcome the fact that Iceland is dramatically reducing the number of whales it intends to slaughter in the name of science. But it is time for the Icelandic government to face reality: there is no future in killing whales for the commercial market. The real economic opportunity lies in the expansion of responsible whale watching, a truly sustainable industry that protects whales and economic livelihoods."

After a 14 year hiatus Iceland returned to whaling last year with a plan to kill 250 whales a year -- 100 minke whales, 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales. This year's quota was revised to include 25 minke whales and no fin or sei whales. Iceland is one of only 3 countries that hunt whales in defiance of an international moratorium.

The Icelandic Government is facing increasing criticism at home from the tourism industry and individual citizens who have questioned the potential impact of whaling on the country's international reputation and economic future.

IFAW marine campaigner Della Green, said: "Iceland's scientific programme is in shreds. The Icelandic government should have the courage to stand up against the whaling lobby and stop whaling altogether."

In September last year, 23 countries, including the UK, Germany and the US, signed a diplomatic demarche to the Icelandic Government, protesting strongly against the decision to resume whaling.

IFAW has been working with Icelandic contacts for many years to develop responsible whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative to whaling. Whale watching now attracts around 72,000 tourists in Iceland every year and is worth more than $14.6 million (USD or Euros) a year to the Icelandic economy.


Iceland controversially rejoined the International Whaling Commission in 2002, with a questionable "reservation" to the international moratorium on whaling. It is currently exploiting a loophole, also used by Japan, which permits the killing of whales for scientific purposes, but has announced its intention to resume full commercial whaling from 2006. Norway continues to whale commercially, after objecting to the moratorium when it was agreed in the 1980s.

Contact: Gill Sanders (in the UK), 00-44-0-207-587-6714 or 00-44-0-7801-613524, Andreas Dinkelmeyer (in Germany), 00-49-40-866-500-15 or 00-49-173-622-7539, or Chris Cutter (in the U.S.), 508-744-2066 or, all of the International Fund for Animal Welfare