Iceland feeling pressure to address whaling | IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare
Having just returned from my second visit to Iceland, and having enjoyed my second whale watching trip out on one of the Elding fleet of boats, I am heartened to read this article from IFAW suggesting that – slowly, very slowly, and some might say far too slowly – the tide is turning against whaling in Iceland. Reykjavik’s mayor already supports a ban on whaling.
Tourism is now Iceland’s number one industry (gods help it) and it is tourists who primarily eat whale meat and therefore prop up the whaling industry in Iceland. Whilst in the country, I overheard one tourist (Japanese) tell another he’d had whale meat the night before, “It was good – tastes just like tuna.” It is enough to make you despair when you hear such a conversation. Apparently, Brits and Germans are commonly seen to try whale meat in Iceland.
IFAW and others are doing a great job with their campaigns in and around Reykjavik. I learnt from Megan Whittaker (MSc Marine Biology and Elding whale watching head guide) that the whale watching industry is suffering from a lack of sightings of cetaceans in Iceland’s waters and the whaling industry may well be to blame. The two are clearly not mutually sustainable, despite the whaling industry claiming otherwise (they would).
I would be interested to know the numbers/percentages of tourists who currently buy whale meat whilst in Iceland. With a residential population of 330,000 people and an influx of over a million people each year via tourism, tourists clearly have the potential to either make or break whaling in Iceland. Knowing and changing those numbers of tourists buying whale meat would seem to be a key to finally ending whaling in Iceland.
Additionally, we must stop making cetaceans scapegoats for our own horrifyingly unsustainable levels of overfishing resulting in depleted fish stocks throughout the world’s oceans. Whales have far more reason and right to exist within ocean ecosystems, performing vital functions within those ecosystems and filling an ecological niche that humans certainly do not. Without whales, our oceans will be deeply unhealthy and will ironically contain far fewer fish (for a fun thing to do, look up whale poo and its function).
We need whales. The oceans need whales. Countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland would do well to digest the scientific evidence for healthy whale populations and immediately stop killing these incredible mammals of the sea. If they do not, human greed and ignorance will be the downfall of us all.