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Iceland’s last whaler harpoons himself in the foot with irrational climate claims

LONDON: A ‘ludicrous’ attempt to justify the killing of endangered fin whales by claiming their slaughter will help Iceland achieve its climate goals has been debunked by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Citing a recent report, rogue whaler Kristján Loftsson claimed that continuing to hunt fin whales – the second largest creature on the planet – was good for the climate because of the carbon dioxide (CO2) they exhale and the impact of their faeces and urine on the growth of algae in the seas off Iceland.

EIA Senior Ocean Advisor Clare Perry said: “The belligerent whaling by Loftsson and his company Hvalur is well documented – as is the cruelty of the methods used and wholly unprofitable nature of whaling as a commercial enterprise.

“With his ludicrous claim that Iceland will be helping to meet its goals in the fight against climate change by allowing the continued slaughter of these endangered creatures, he is descending into outright farce.

“In fact, the reverse is true – whales, including fin whales, provide vital and unique ocean ecosystem services, including capturing carbon from the atmosphere.”

Hvalur’s aging whaling ships have sat idle this summer after the Icelandic Government announced on 20 June that hunting would be suspended after an official report laid bare the appalling cruelty involved.

The suspension is due to end on 31 August but, although the whaling season is almost over, Loftsson has stated his intention to resume whaling from 1 September.

In a new briefing released today, An Indefensible Practice – Iceland’s commercial whaling in the face of climate, economy, welfare and biodiversity concerns, EIA debunks Loftsson’s claims, pointing out that a report by the University of Iceland, commissioned by Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, found that whaling actually reduces the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon.

Another study suggests that rebuilding the whale populations devastated by commercial whaling would remove 160,000 tonnes of carbon each year through sinking whale carcasses.

Loftsson’s spurious claims also take no account of the climate-harming emissions directly arising from the hunting of fin whales in Iceland, including:

  • emissions from the storage and shipping of fin whale products to Japan
  • emissions from powering the hunting vessels each day through the hunting season
  • emissions due to the refrigerated storage of whale products over a long period of time.

EIA experts calculate that a single shipment by Hvalur of 2,576 tonnes of fin whale meat to Japan last December in the Norwegian-flagged Silver Copenhagen, a Dutch-owned cargo ship, resulted in greenhouse gas emissions within the range of 2,939-3,054 tonnes CO2-equivalent.

Perry added: “The plain truth is that whaling no longer adds up as a viable economic activity and, despite Loftsson’s preposterous claims, it certainly doesn’t add up as a credible measure to help fight climate change.

“All whales are the allies of humanity in our efforts to tackle global warming and should be seen as such, not brutally slaughtered for their meat to be shipped across the world to a market that doesn’t want it and to end up turned into dog treats in Japan.”

The briefing concludes by calling on the Government of Iceland to finally institute a permanent ban on all commercial whaling.



  • Clare Perry, EIA UK Senior Ocean Advisor, via clareperry[at]
  • Paul Newman, EIA UK Senior Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]



  1. EIA investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuse. Its undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil. It works to safeguard global marine ecosystems by addressing the threats posed by plastic pollution, bycatch and commercial exploitation of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Finally, it works to avert climate catastrophe by strengthening and enforcing regional and international agreements that tackle short-lived climate super-pollutants, including ozone-depleting substances, hydrofluorocarbons and methane, and advocating corporate and policy measures to promote transition to a sustainable cooling sector and away from fossil fuels. It uses its findings in hard-hitting reports to campaign for new legislation, improved governance and more effective enforcement. Its field experience is used to provide guidance to enforcement agencies and it forms partnerships with local groups and activists and support their work through hands-on training.
  2. Read and download An Indefensible Practice at


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