Kristjan Loftsson, the man behind Iceland’s fin whaling activities, has announced that he and his whaling company, Hvalur, will hunt fin whales again this summer, starting around June 10. The quota for the year is 161 animals, plus 20% of the unused quota from last time.
No whales have been caught for the last two years, ostensibly because of problems with chemical analysis of whale meat in Japan which Loftsson now puts down to the use of obsolete technology in Japan that gives conflicting results. He hopes that this will be less of a problem in the future.
This year, it seems that only part of the whale meat will be sent via a roundabout route to Japan. During the last two years, it turns out that he has been working with Innovation Centre Iceland (ICI) on the development of food supplements – yes, you read correctly – from fin whale meat, and with the University of Iceland on how to process gelatin from whale bones and blubber.
Whale meat is apparently high in haem iron, a form of iron that is only found in meat, poultry, seafood and fish and is absorbed better by the body than non-haem iron found in vegetables or the inorganic (non-haem) iron that is used in food supplements.
Meat from marine mammals in 8-10 times higher in haem iron than beef. The WHO say that over 30% of the world’s population are anaemic, many due to iron deficiency. This is particularly true for developing countries, children and women of child-bearing age. Loftsson clearly hopes he is doing the world a great favour by killing whales and producing iron supplements. Hmm. I don’t think it’s that easy. Absorption of non-haem iron can be increased by consuming vitamin C at the same time.
Loftosson and ICI are mapping the concentration of haem iron as well as that of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and trace elements in fin whale meat. They are also studying ways to handle the meat with a view to storage, transport and intake. It is assumed that the meat will be stored frozen but will be dried and finely ground before use in food supplements.