Musings, politics and environmental issues

Well, as some of the workers at the whaling station in Iceland intimated last year, Kristjan Loftsson has decided not to kill fin whales this year. One excuse given was somewhat feeble – they received permission to kill whales too late and it was thus too late to organise everything – but the main reason was that they couldn’t sell the meat that they’d sent to Japan.

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The minke whalers have also decided to hunt for sea cucumbers rather than whales this year, apparently “because it suits us better”. They abandoned whaling last year early on in the season. They will import minke whale meat from Norway this year to meet customer requirements. Is anyone protesting whaling in Norway?

This is the first time in 17 years that no whaling of any kind will be happening in Iceland.

Neither Kristjan Loftsson’s company Hvalur hf. nor the minke whale outfit IP-utgerd have excluded the possibility of whaling next year.  But this year at least the whales are safe.

The decision by the two companies provides even more rationale for the fact that the report commissioned by the Icelandic government on whaling was not accurate. The authors said that both minke whaling and fin whaling should be profitable, although they acknowledged that fin whaling wasn’t profitable between and including 2014 and 2017, much of the proceeds going on wages and transport to Japan.

And the minke whalers only caught 17 and 6 minke whales in 2017 and 2018 respectively, which can hardly be profitable. Indeed, the minke whaling company has gone bust more than once.

Some whales are not safe, though. Japan started commercial whaling this morning for the first time in 31 years, with quotas for 52 minke whales, 25 sei whales and 15 Bryde’s whales – 225 whales in total. Some whales have already been caught. According to a report in Japan Times, “the quota was calculated on the basis that it would not adversely impact stocks even if Japan kept hunting the whales for 100 years”. Good grief! 100 years!!!

They intend to kill the whales in nearby waters and in their exclusive economic zone but not in the Antarctic, where they have actually killed more whales annually than are allowed now. Last year, Nanami Kurasawa from the Japanese group IKAN told me that the stopping of “research whaling” in the Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere would mean that Japan would have to give up 333 minke whales from Antarctica, 134 sei whales and 43 minke whales from the North West Pacific. Distributors were worried, she said.

Nevertheless, whale meat consumption in Japan has dropped from over 200,000 tonnes in the 1960s to around 5,000 tonnes last year.

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