Iceland plans to start “research whaling”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:
REYKJAVIK–Iceland fisheries minister Arne Mathiesen and
International Whaling Commission delegate Stefan Asmundsson announced
on August 6, 2003 that Iceland will emulate Japan by starting a
“research” whaling industry. Iceland last hunted whales in 1989.
The announcement confirmed a statement to Japanese news media
by Iceland prime minister David Oddsson in January 2003, while in
Tokyo seeking investment and foreign aid.
Japan has often economically assisted smaller nations in
quid-pro-quo for political support in trying to resume commercial
whaling and thwart further international protection of ocean species
Soon after Asmundsson spoke, U.S. State Department
representative Philip Reeker reminded news media that the U.S. could
impose sanctions against Iceland under the Pelly Amendment to the
Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967. The State Department again
denounced the Icelandic resumption of whaling in a separate written
statement less than 24 hours later, but the written statement did
not mention sanctions.
European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Commissioner Franz
Fischler personally took EU objections to the planned resumption of
whaling to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, said Agence
The Icelandic Tourist Industry Association warned that
whaling could cause whales to avoid whalewatching boats,
jeopardizing the $7.5 million a year Icelandic whale-watching
After hinting at the June 2003 IWC meeting that Iceland might
authorize the killing of as many as 100 minke whales, 100 fin
whales, and 50 sei whales per year in 2004 and 2005, Asmundsson set
the actual self-proclaimed quota at 38 minke whales. The pretext for
killing the whales is to see what is in their stomachs.
Icelandic fishers, like fishers around the world, are
frustrated by declining catches after decades of overfishing and
destruction of spawning areas by bottom trawling.
Much as Canadian and Peruvian fishers blame seals and sea
lions for depleted fisheries, Japan Fisheries Agency chief Masayuki
Komatsu blames minke whales, whom he calls “cockroaches of the sea.”
Asmundsson claimed that there are now 43,000 whales in
Icelandic waters, with minkes the most plentiful species.
The announcement that Iceland would resume whaling came just 10 days
after Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University and Joe Roman of
Harvard University published DNA research findings in the journal
Science that indicate that the global whale population before
high-volume whale-killing began in the mid-19th century was far
higher than previously believed.
The IWC has previously accepted estimates, based on reviews
of whaling records, that the pre-whaling North Atlantic whale
population included 20,000 humpbacks, 30,000 to 50,000 fin whales,
and about 100,000 minkes. Commercial whaling, under IWC rules,
cannot resume until each whale population recovers to 54% of the
estimated pre-whaling size. The current official estimates are that
there are now 10,000 humpbacks, 56,000 fin whales, and 149,000
minkes. Minkes are believed to be more numerous because larger
species are fewer than previously.
Palumbi and Roman found that the historical norms may have
included 240,000 humpbacks, 360,000 fin whales, and 265,000 minkes.
If the IWC accepts the genetic evidence, commercial whaling might
not resume for from 30 to 100 years, Palumbi told reporters.