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Iceland kills first whale stirring international outrage

18th August 2003


(Yarmouth Port, MA – 18 August 2003) – Defying calls from governments and leading conservation groups around the world, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (, the Government of Iceland today confirmed that Icelandic whalers had killed their first whale, marking the nation’s return to whaling after a 14-year hiatus.

“Iceland’s return to this cruel and needless slaughter flies in the face of decades of international conservation efforts. The Icelandic people are being badly advised and misled by their own fisheries ministry. Iceland’s international credibility and economy may be among the ultimate victims,” said IFAW spokesperson, Gill Sanders, in Iceland to observe the hunt.

This is not Iceland’s first foray into whaling. The country was forced to stop whaling in 1989 through an international boycott of Icelandic fish products. Last year it rejoined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and announced it would return to commercial whaling in 2006.

Despite this, Iceland made a surprise announcement last week that it would kill 38 minke whales between August 15 and September 30, 2003 using a loophole in the IWC whaling moratorium that allows for scientific whaling. The announcement was met with strong criticism from governments worldwide including the United States. Seventeen countries including the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany (three countries which alone import over 40% of all Icelandic exports) have filed formal objections to Iceland’s refusal to recognize the international whaling ban.

Iceland’s return to whaling is expected to have a significant impact on its own economy. The Icelandic Tourist Industry Association has voiced strong opposition to the decision to resume whaling. Forty percent of all Iceland’s tourists engage in whale watching, and the country is considered the finest whale-watching destination in Europe. Whale watching is the fastest-growing sector of the tourist industry in the country, worth around $8 million (USD) annually.

“Breaking the ban on whaling makes no sense for Iceland. This will literally chase away the thriving whale watching industry and ultimately hurt the Icelandic economy,” said Fred O’Regan, IFAW’s president. “This is bad decision for whales, for international cooperation, for Icelandic tourists and fishermen and for Icelandic taxpayers who have to underwrite the whole thing.”

For media-related inquiries, contact:
Press Contact: Chris Cutter, IFAW, 508-744-2066,
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