It’s Time for Iceland to End Commercial Whaling

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is calling out Iceland’s lone whaling company for attempting to ship an estimated 2,000 tons of fin whale meat out of the country.

Despite a dwindling market for whale meat, public opposition, political sanctions and a global ban on commercial whaling, it appears that Iceland’s small, yet greedy, industry will not be swayed and will continue to senselessly and violently slaughter whales in an unsustainable manner, all the while undermining global efforts to protect these creatures.

“Icelanders don’t even eat fin whale. But one businessman seems hell-bent on resuscitating the international trade in whale meat, whatever the costs to himself and his beautiful country. Now he’s in a mad rush to get the frozen meat of endangered whales out of the country by any means necessary just before the U.S. imposes measures on Iceland for his irresponsible activities,” said Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Program Director for IFAW.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986, but like Japan, Iceland continued to use the scientific whaling loophole. After leaving the IWC in the 1990s in protest and returning in 2002, Iceland resumed scientific whaling in 2003 and commercial whaling in 2006. Hunts were canceled in 2011 and 2012 because of a lack of demand for meat, but resumed yet again in 2013.

The controversy in Iceland is centered around the whaling company Hvalur hf, the only one that hunts endangered fin whales. Yes, that’s the same company that decided to turn whale meat no one wants into beer and was also previously criticized for using whale oil to fuel whaling ships.

Since 2003, it has killed 496 minke whales and 280 endangered fin whales and has exported over 2,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan.

Worse yet is that in December Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture announced that it would allow commercial whaling to continue for at least the next five years with a self-imposed quota that will allow for the slaughter of as many as 154 endangered fin whales and 229 minke whales each year.

In February, the U.S. government issued a formal declaration that Iceland is undermining the effectiveness of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and its ban on the international commercial trade of whale products.

The move was applauded by a number of animal advocacy and conservation groups that are now urging President Obama to act swiftly and impose economic measures, including trade sanctions, against Iceland under the Pelly Amendment of the of the Fishermen’s Protective Act. The Pelly Amendment authorizes the president to ban the importation of products from countries whose fishing operations hurt the effectiveness of international conservation programs. In this case Iceland is specifically undermining the ones being run by CITES and the IWC.

Conservationists also note that whaling isn’t just hurting whales, but is hurting Iceland by dragging the country through the proverbial mud and ignoring the potential economic fall out.

“This whaling activity goes against Iceland’s interests and our international image as it is opposed by all countries Iceland has the most important ties with. Whale watching is worth far more,” said sbjrn Bjrgvinsson, Chairman of The Icelandic Tourism Association.

Sadly, the Icelandic Whale Watch Association and the Icelandic Travel Industry Association have previously reported a decline in whale watching because whales are increasingly difficult to find.

President Obama was faced with the same situation in 2011, but declined to act and instead went with diplomatic measures to encourage Iceland to change its whaling policy. It’s clear that shaking a political finger at Iceland isn’t enough and that the U.S. needs to step up for whales by imposing economic sanctions to help end this bloody trade.


There are only days left for Obama to act before the 60-day decision period ends. Please sign and share the petition urging the president to send a message to Iceland that whaling will not be tolerated by imposing economic sanctions.

Photo credit: Jeff Jenkins via Flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Valentina R.
Valentina R3 years ago

Petition signed.

Carrie-Anne Brown

signed, thanks for sharing :)

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Iceland is full of criminal gangs. It's government is a government of psychopaths, they support environmental destruction before anything else. Iceland is a primitive vicious country almost devoid of wildlife, they are like China, greed before anything is what Iceland is all about.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

I just don't understand the economics of this 'industry'. Icelandic tourism is dominated by well to do, well educated trippers with an interest in nature, and HAS to be of far greater import to the country's economic health.

Besides signing the petition, contact the Icelandic tourism board and let them know you won't be visiting until they end this barbaric practice.

Wonder Girl
Rekha S4 years ago

We really need to stop this cruelty.

Lynn C.
Past Member 4 years ago


Tracy B.
Tracy B4 years ago

Definitely signed, hard to fathom that there are still countries taking part in whaling... :(

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

Petition signed!

Sylvie A.
SylvieBusy A4 years ago

Oui, il est plus que temps !