Musings, politics and environmental issues

Posts tagged ‘HB Grandi’

First fin whales killed off Iceland

Kristjan Loftsson, the man behind Iceland’s fin-whale hunts, originally said that his two whaling boats, Hvalur 8 and 9, would head off to sea around June 10, so a protest was organized that day in front of Hvalur 8, which was still moored in the Reykjavik harbour opposite the whale-watching boats. But nothing happened that day, and Loftsson said that there would be a delay before the boats went out.

Hvalur 9 is still in the slip, but Hvalur 8 sneaked out of the harbour on Wednesday night with its GPS device switched off so the boat could not be traced using the Marine Traffic app. They returned late on Thursday night with the first whale, then went out again and returned with the second whale early this morning. They are allowed to catch 161 whales this season, plus some of the unused quota from last year, totalling 190. The hunting season is around 100 days so I doubt they’ll catch all of them.


A page has been set up on Facebook called Stop Whaling in Iceland to publicize protests.

Other than watching when the boats go in and out of the whaling station at Hvalfjordur, it is nigh impossible to keep track of how many whales have been killed as Hvalur hf, the company behind the whaling operations, does not have a website and although the first whale killing is usually reported, this does not always happen. The same goes for the minke-whale killing operation: they used to have a website which was updated every so often with “another two whales have been killed” and the like, but their webpage no longer exists, so it will be very difficult to keep track of whales killed by them. Jon Gunnarsson, the father of the man behind the minke whale killings, is a member of the Althing (Icelandic parliament) for the Independent Party, and Throstur Sigmundsson, the husband of Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gudmundsdottir, carried  out minke whaling in 2016 when the boat he bought came with a minke whale quota, so there are strong minke whaling interests within the Icelandic Althing.

There is an article about Kristjan Loftsson in the latest issue of the newspaper Stundin. As always, Loftsson could not be contacted, but it was interesting all the same. Loftsson is no longer connected to the fishing giant HB Grandi so cannot use profits from there to subsidize whaling operations.

The Icelandic government appears split on this issue, and has requested a report from the Institute of Economics on the economic ramifications of fin whaling and its effects on industry and another report from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute on the food needs of whales and their importance in the marine biota off Iceland.

I have no faith in either of these, see the article I wrote a number of years ago which criticizes a previous report by the Institute of Economics, partly for its assumptions that whales kill fish that could be caught for eating. Another article I wrote last year describes the importance of whale faeces for fish populations.

Information on the social impact of whaling has also been requested.

Fin whaling in Iceland is loss-making

The Icelandic fin-whaling company Hvalur hf. made a loss on its fin-whaling activities last year, according to annual accounts for the company. The company’s annual accounts show that it sold whale meat for ISK 1.055 million in 2014 but the expense of running the whaling ships and export-related expenses (presumably the shipment of whale meat to Japan on the freight ship Alma) amounted to ISK 2.011 million. The value of stock changes of whale produce was recorded as ISK 822 million, and thus the estimated loss of fin whaling was at least ISK 73 million.

Frozen supplies of whale meat were estimated as ISK 2.6 billion in September 2014.

Overall, though, Hvalur hf. recorded a profit of ISK 3 billion, mostly due to activities of its subsidiary Vogun hf. which owns a large part of the fishing companies HB Grandi and Hampiðjan.

The financial situation is not likely to improve this year either, with the ship Winter Bay being moored in Tromsö for 6 weeks. Also, Icelandic fish companies are extremely concerned at the moment because Russia is seriously considering banning the importation of Icelandic goods – most of which consist of fish – because of Iceland’s support for economic sanctions against Russia because of its role in the Ukraine crisis. Initially Russia banned imports from the EU and certain other countries but now it is considering extending the ban to Iceland. When US anti-whaling groups were encouraging boycotts of fish coming from Iceland due to Iceland’s whale-hunting activities, Icelandic fishery companies were not particularly worried because most of Iceland’s fish goes to Russia. Exports to Russia have increased almost five-fold since 2008. But now they’re really worried….

If Hvalur cannot depend on fishing profits from HB Grandi to keep it afloat, it will be in deep trouble.

UPDATE: Russia implemented the ban yesterday, August 13. And fishing concerns are extremely angry….

Iceland’s whale meat faces increasing protests

In early April I wrote a blog called Iceland’s whaling under pressure again, in which I documented the campaign by American environmental and animal welfare groups to put pressure on wholesalers not to buy fish from the fishing company HB Grandi and also on companies not to buy from wholesalers who do business with HB Grandi. The reason was that HB Grandi is linked to Hvalur hf., the Icelandic whaling company, through Hvalur’s owner, Kristjan Loftsson.

I also mentioned in the blog that a shipment of 2000 tonnes of fin whale meat was being exported to Japan via the freight ship Alma, as previous attempts to get the meat to its destination had been met by protests.

Although the freight ship encountered opposition on the way – protests were organised in South Africa and so the ship could not moor in Durban as planned, and opposition also occurred in Mauritius where the ship had to take fuel while offshore – the meat has finally arrived in Osaka. The Icelandic weekly newspaper Frettatiminn reported on Friday that the importer was the same company that imported Icelandic whale meat in 2008, the Asian Trading Co. Ltd in Tokyo.

Frettatiminn also said that 13 environmental groups had protested Iceland’s whaling activities at a seafood expo in Brussels during the week. This seems to be a direct continuation of the Whales Need Us campaign that I wrote about earlier, both in the blog and in an article for IPS. The article said that environmental groups have written to the largest seafood buyers in Europe and urged them to ensure that the fish they buy does not come from companies connected with Icelandic whaling.

Iceland’s whaling is definitely becoming the focus of worldwide attention.

Iceland’s whaling under pressure again

Once again, Iceland’s whaling activities have made it the focus of anti-whaling activists. Last month, a number of environmental and animal welfare groups calling themselves Whales Need Us highlighted the links between fishing company HB Grandi and its subsidiaries with the whaling company Hvalur, run by Kristjan Loftsson who is also one of the owners of HB Grandi and Chair of the HB Grandi Board of Governors. Subsequently, some companies decided to stop buying fish from HB Grandi or from wholesalers who buy fish from that company.

The campaign also asked Barack Obama to make use of the Pelly Amendment because Iceland’s sale of fin whale products outside of Iceland (they are not sold within Iceland) contravenes the international CITES agreement. Last week, Obama stated that he WOULD invoke the Pelly Amendment and outlined eight measures to be taken. Although these measures are diplomatic rather than trade sanctions, one of them involves compiling a report in six month’s time on the effectiveness of the measures taken.

Coincidentally, a group of eight Opposition MPs in Iceland have put forth a parliamentary proposal to compile a report into the economic and trade consequences of hunting both fin whales and minke whales.

I have written an article about this topic for Inter Press Service, but at the time of writing it hasn’t yet appeared. Update: It’s just appeared, April 14, here.

Meanwhile, after Japan lost the court case about “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean off Australia, animal rights group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said they would probably turn their attention to other whaling countries – Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

And Hvalur has just sent 2,000 tonnes of frozen whale meat directly to Japan on the freight ship Alma, after having been banned last year from entering European ports. Earlier this year, Hvalur surreptitiously tried sending its whale meat to a Canadian port, Halifax, then sending it by train to Vancouver on the other side of the country and sending it on to Japan from there. This worked, but consequently caused an uproar in Canada so will not be tried again.

As a journalist, I can say that getting information from Hvalur staff is virtually impossible, and any information obtained is likely to be in the form of one-word answers. The company is obviously getting more and more paranoid, as they have now removed their phone numbers from the Internet listing of Icelandic phone numbers, so now the only information that appears is the whaling station address in Hvalfjordur. Luckily for me, their phone numbers still exist in the printed telephone directory (and I have copied them to my address book).



More on whaling

My article on the campaigns against Iceland’s hunting of fin whales and minke whales is now up here

Since I first submitted the article a week ago, another fourteen fin whales have been caught, in addition to the one that was brought back last Tuesday. Four came back today.  That’s a lot. There have also been campaigns against buying fish from HB Grandi, as the main protagonist behind the whaling also has links to the board of that company. AVAAZ, for instance, is targeting a German supermarket chain to stop buying fish from HB Grandi. But there will also be a pro-Iceland seminar on Thursday in Germany, when someone from Iceland will talk about the “Iceland responsible fisheries” initiative.

Back to my next article, on whether Iceland’s energy can really be termed renewable.

At some point, I might upload a photo of some IFAW protestors when the first dead fin whale was brought back. But not now, as my post keeps disappearing.