Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for December, 2018

Commercial whaling in Japan may affect Iceland’s whaling activities


Japan has just announced that it will leave the International Whaling Committee on 30 June 2019 and resume commercial whaling the following day in Japanese territorial waters.

This is surprising in light of the diminishing consumption of whale meat in Japan. Consumption is down to approx. 5,000 tonnes a year, down from 200,000 tonnes in the 1960s. The majority of the Japanese never or rarely eat whale meat.

The Japanese authorities have also said that they will no longer pursue whaling in the Antarctic or other southern climes, which is of course a good thing.

The Japanese decision could have an effect on whether the Icelandic government allows fin whaling to continue next year. The five-year licence to Kristjan Loftsson and his company Hvalur ran out last September and the Icelandic government has said it will commission a study into whether whaling is viable on commercial, environmental and social aspects of whaling before deciding whether to grant Loftsson a licence once more.

Japan’s decision to resume commercial whaling must surely have an effect on the commercial viability of Loftsson’s whaling as he sends all the Icelandic whale meat to Japan, via a roundabout route. If Japan is catching its own whales (which few of the Japanese will eat), it’s unlikely that they will want whale meat from Iceland as well. This might also factor into the Icelandic government’s report, as it makes no sense for Iceland to suffer the political wrath of anti-whaling countries if a market cannot be found for the meat.

In 2017, the Japanese authorities discarded Icelandic whale meat because their chemical analyses revealed that it was not fit for human consumption. Loftsson blamed the technology used, and hopes it will work out better this year. But whether it will or not is unknown – and Loftsson is unlikely to publicize a refusal by the Japanese to accept the meat.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who thinks that Japan’s decision will make it harder to sell whale meat from Iceland, as Arni Finnsson from the Iceland Nature Conservation Association has just been reported (in Icelandic) as saying something very similar.

Update: I contacted Nanami Kurasawa from the Japanese group IKAN to try and find out more about the proposed Japanese commercial whaling, Among other things, she said that the sellers of whale meat would probably NOT be opposed to more meat from Iceland as the stopping “research whaling” in the Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere would mean that Japan would have to give up 333 minke whales from the Antarctica, 134 sei whales and 43 minke whales from the North West Pacific. They are worried about a reduction in distribution.

Details of their commercial whaling are till to be announced. She also said that the Japanese government had relaxed rules on chemical analysis – which Loftsson is probably pleased about.

Anyone want an article on this issue?

Sexist political comments create rage amongst Icelanders

Last month, six Icelandic politicians from two political parties, the Middle Party and the People’s Party, were drinking together at a bar opposite the parliament building (where their fellow politicians were still meeting). They were there for over three hours and were making loud, derogatory, misogynist remarks about a number of their fellow women colleagues (and former colleagues) as well as boasting about corruption incidents that some of them had been involved in.

Unknown to them, another guest was so disgusted by their behaviour that he recorded the conversations on his phone and later sent them to three of the more radical media outlets, two of which – DV and Stundin – worked with the recordings.

The politicians also made fun of Freyja Haraldsdottir, a disabled activist who was an alternate politician in the Althingi a few years ago. The comments about her have enraged the disabled rights’ movement.

Two of the politicians were Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson (remember him?). While he was Foreign Affairs Minister, Gunnar Bragi had set up the Barbershop “He for She” event in New York in 2015 to support non-sexist male attitudes and behaviour between men. Rather ironic really. The national committee of UN Women has said that GBS has damaged the reputation of He for She.

The two PP politicians, who made derogatory remarks about their leader, Inga Sæland, have been expelled from their party but will still be in the Althingi because they were elected as individuals. The PP now has only two members in the Althing.

The expelled members might well eventually join the Middle Party, as that was part of the conversation recorded in the bar. They have denied this, however – or at least have said that the time is not opportune to join another party. As many people have suspected, the Middle Party say that their policies are actually very similar to those of the PP party.

Meanwhile, GBS and a fellow Middle Party politician have decided to talk a break from the Althingi for an unspecified amount of time. They were “uninvited” to the traditional celebration held by Iceland’s president to celebrate Iceland’s sovereignty over Denmark, which took place on Thursday night.  The female MP politician, Anna Kolbrun Arnadottir (AKA) has said she is considering her situation (she and SDG were at the party).

In some countries, such as Sweden, politicians resign over mild scandals. But that rarely happens in Iceland.

Icelanders are enraged at the situation and a demonstration was called at short notice for today. It was expected to be attended by over 3,000 people, but was probably attended by more. The organizers are demanding that all six resign from the Althingi and get replaced by their alternates. One person said that an election should be called, as that’s the only way to get rid of them. Stay tuned.

Anyone want an article on this?

Update, December 5: There is such a tense, uncomfortable atmosphere now in the Althingi because 4 of the 6 are still present (and AKA and SDG have now both said they won’t resign) that I predict another election because the current atmosphere is unworkable.