Environmental campaigners in Iceland have co-signed an open letter to the Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, condemning lax laws on whale hunting.
The letter, signed by climate and animal rights groups including Gaia Iceland, Reykjavik Whale Save, Sea Shepherd Iceland and Stop Whaling in Iceland; and accompanied by a protest outside the Alþingi on 24 March, criticised the Icelandic government’s failure to band whale hunting outright. The signatories noted that whale hunting has an adverse effect on climate change; and that, despite the claims of hunters, very few Icelanders consume whale meat as food: a 2017 Gallup poll found that less than one per cent of the country’s residents eat whale regularly, while 81 per cent said they had never eaten it.
Marine biologist Julie Lasserre, co-founder of Reykjavik Whale Save and Vice-President of Sea Shepherd Iceland, said: “During the past decade scientists have been showing the importance of whales in marine ecosystems and their role against climate change. The ‘Whale Pump’ concept explains that more whales means more phytoplankton, then more zooplankton and finally more fish. Whales are not only increasing the primary production of the oceans they also increase carbon storage which mitigates climate change. By continuing whaling the Icelandic government is going against its own climate action plan that aims to increase carbon sequestration. We are asking the government to cancel its decision to renew the whaling permit for five years, a decision made by one minister, Kristjáns Þórs Júlíusson.”
Júlíusson, Iceland’s Minister for Fisheries, agreed in February to approve the continued hunting of minke whales and fin whales until 2023. Only one firm in Iceland – Hvalur hf. – still actively hunts fin whales, which are officially classified as an endangered species; and which are primarily hunted for export to Japan. In their letter to the Alþingi, the campaigners formally requested an official meeting with government representatives to discuss whale hunting legislation further.