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Making a killing from endangered whales

How Iceland is creating a new trade in fin whale meat for Japan

LONDON: As the 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) opens today (July 11, 2011) in Jersey, a new report exposes how Iceland is defying international treaties to hunt endangered fin whales in a bid to create a new consumer market in Japan.

Jointly produced by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WCDS), Renegade Whaling: Iceland’s Creation of an Endangered Species Trade identifies wealthy Icelandic businessman Kristján Loftsson and his firm Hvalur hf as the driving force behind the bloody trade.

Fin whales are the second largest creature on the planet, one of the fastest of the great whales – and classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘endangered’.

Yet Hvalur hf whalers are slaughtering scores of these magnificent creatures every year and, with no significant domestic market in Iceland, the firm is exporting the meat and blubber to Japanese consumers via an import company Loftsson himself helped to establish.

Since 2008, Hvalur hf has killed 273 endangered fin whales and exported more than 1,200 tonnes of whale meat and blubber worth an estimated US$17m to Japan – and it is sitting on a stockpile of a further 2,500 tonnes.

New EIA undercover investigations have revealed for the first time the identity of the Japanese importing company as Misaka Shoji (Misaka Trading). Japan’s scientific whaling company Kyodo Senpaku is also confirmed as being involved in distributing Icelandic fin whale products, a key concern given its dominance within Japan’s whale meat market and effective control of an extensive distribution network.

EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry said: “We found alarming evidence of increased distribution and sale of Icelandic-caught fin whales, fuelled by artificially low prices of the Icelandic whale meat and the special status of fin whales as the most desirable whale product in Japan, as well as the absence of fin whales from Japan’s own hunts.

“This has given Loftsson the opportunity to sell hundreds of tonnes of Icelandic fin whale already, profiting a Japan-based import company he helped establish by as much as US$8m.”

WDCS anti-whaling campaign lead Sue Fisher said: “Iceland’s killing and export of internationally protected and endangered whales clearly undermines the International Whaling Commission and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

“If the IWC is not to become the dysfunctional body that the whaling countries work tirelessly to bring about, the Commission must assert its authority and publicly condemn Iceland’s escalating commercial whaling and whale exports.”


1. The International Whaling Commission must assert its authority and publicly condemn Iceland’s escalating whaling and whale exports

2. Until Iceland ceases whale killing and trade, the USA should impose targeted sanctions against the commercial interests of Hvalur hf for undermining the effectiveness of recognised international conservation agreements

3. EU member states should adopt a zero-tolerance position towards Iceland’s whaling and trade in the ongoing negotiations for that country’s accession to EU membership

NEW: EIA Campaigners are blogging from the IWC. Keep up to date with all the action.


Interviews are available on request from:
• Clare Perry, EIA Senior Campaigner, at
or telephone +34 664348821

• Danny Groves, WDCS Press Officer, at
or telephone (01249) 449534 / 07834 498277

Images and footage are available on request from EIA Press Officer Paul Newman at
or telephone 020 7354 7960

1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental

Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

2. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) is the global voice for the protection of whales, dolphins, porpoises and their environment. WDCS has offices in the UK, Germany, Argentina, Australia and the USA.

Environmental Investigation Agency

62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960
Fax: +44 207 354 7961