Workers butchering a fin whale at Miosandur whaling station, Hvalfjordur, Iceland (August 2014)

Iceland’s whaling kingpin stays ashore for season

Iceland’s rogue whaling kingpin Kristján Loftsson has announced the cancellation of yet another season hunting endangered fin whales this summer.

This is the second season he has scrapped, citing ongoing difficulties with Japanese customs on imports of his whale products and also the strong krona. Loftsson cancelled last year’s hunt for similar reasons.

After leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1992 in protest over the global moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland rejoined in 2002 with a reservation to the moratorium and resumed commercial whaling in 2006.

Almost all the fin whale meat originating from its hunts is destined for Japan, despite a ban on international trade in fin whales under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Loftsson, through his whaling company Hvalur, has single-handedly kept Icelandic whaling afloat; Hvalur is understood to be running at a loss, subsidised by its holdings in other companies to which it is connected.

Icelandic ministers are said to have taken the current export issue up with their Japanese counterparts. Loftsson told Icelandic media this week there had been no change despite talks with the Japanese Embassy as well as meetings in Japan with officials and experts from Iceland and Norway.

He complained that Japan is still using outdated methods to test the whale meat, resulting in losses to his company and delays in delivering products. Since 2009, Hvalur has exported products from 680 fin whales.

Clare Perry, Team Leader of EIA’s Oceans Campaign, said: “We are delighted to learn that magnificent, internationally protected fin whales will have another season free from bloody seas and explosive harpoons.

“We are, however, mindful of the fact that Loftsson has suspended hunting in the past only to resume when the economic conditions were right.

“Loftsson’s pugnacious whaling is an utter disgrace and the Government of Iceland’s collusion in the persecution of an internationally protected species damages the country’s otherwise pristine credentials as a tourist destination.”