It’s unbelievable. Iceland’s fisheries minister, Kristjan Thor Juliusson, has just signed a regulation authorizing the killing of fin whales and minke whales for the next five years. In part, the decision was based on the report on the economic, social and environmental consequences of whaling that the government commissioned the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economics to carry out. And, like the report they wrote in 2010, this one was heavily criticized. He also based his decision on advice (in Icelandic) from the whale experts from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, which says in part that more research using tissue samples is necessary to investigate the food they eat. Their statement mentions new research on the benefits of whales in transporting nutrients between layers, and says it has been discussed at meetings of NAMMCO and the IWC scientific committee, but is generally not considered to be as important when compared to other factors that may influence marine productivity.
They admit that the minke stock appears to be diminishing, although they think that the whales have moved north in search of food. Last season, the minke whalers stopped almost as soon as they started, after killing 10 whales as it was not economical to do so (but the Institute of Economics report did not mention that). So, even though they are permitted to kill more minke whales, it’s not at all likely that they will do so.
Apparently the Icelandic Institute of Natural History recently compiled a list of endangered wildlife in and around Iceland; neither fin whales nor minke whales are considered endangered around Iceland (they are “Least Concern”, in IUCN terms).
The Prime Minister’s party, the Left-Greens, are against whaling and the PM has said she considers that whaling is not sustainable. Julíusson holds the opposite view. He says that the matter is certainly controversial – “there are different opinions on the matter. “But this is one of the tasks that comes under my ministry and it’s up to me to take a decision, which I’ve now done,” he told the national broadcasting station. Juliusson is from the conservative Independent Party.
As yet, there has been little reaction to the decision, maybe because it was announced early evening when few people are still at work. But I’m sure there will be reactions. I’ll update as necessary.
Update: The Left-Green environment minister, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, said that Júlíusson did not tell him about his plan to allow whaling on scientific grounds. Gudbrandsson is against whaling and is not happy with the decision.