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Iceland whale hunting season suspended - possibly signalling end of practice

Iceland’s decision could see a permanent end to its tradition of whale hunting

<p>Whaling photo from June 2022 </p>

Whaling photo from June 2022

/ AFP via Getty Images
By @RobDexES
21 June 2023

celand has suspended this year’s whale hunt until the end of August due to animal welfare concerns - a move likely to bring the controversial practice to an end.

Food Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said he had “taken the decision to suspend whaling” until August 31.

His decision follows a government-commissioned report which concluded the hunt does not comply with Iceland’s Animal Welfare Act.

The country’s last remaining whaling company, Hvalur, had previously said this would be its final season as the hunt has become less profitable.

Iceland’s whaling season traditionally runs from mid-June to mid-September, and it is doubtful Hvalur would head out to sea that late in the season.

Annual quotas authorise the killing of 209 fin whales -- the second-longest marine mammal after the blue whale -- and 217 minke whales, one of the smallest species.

But catches have gone down drastically in recent years due to a dwindling market for whale meat.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Group hailed the decision as “huge”.

It said: “Together with the support of other marine charities and a public outcry in Iceland and abroad, we’ve saved around 150 fin whales from a painful and horrific death this year. “

Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries in the world that have continued whale hunting in the face of fierce criticism from environmentalists and animal rights’ defenders.

A recent monitoring report by the Food and Veterinary Authority on the fin whale hunt found the killing of the animals took too long based on the main objectives of the Animal Welfare Act.

Shocking video clips recently broadcast by the veterinary authority showed a whale’s agony as it was hunted for five hours.

“If the government and licensees cannot guarantee welfare requirements, these activities do not have a future,” the minister said.

Opposition to whaling has been on the rise in Iceland with a majority now in favour of dropping the practice, a recent poll showed.

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