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Iceland’s Whale Hunting Coming to an End

Iceland has announced plans to end commercial whaling, marking a significant shift in the country’s stance towards this practice.
Iceland’s Whale Hunting Coming to an End

Credits: Shutterstock

This decision comes against the backdrop of a long history of whale hunting, which has been a controversial issue both domestically and internationally. As the last whaling company in Iceland has not applied for a new license, and the previous license expired at the end of 2023, this marks a significant pause in the country's whaling activities.

The Fisheries Minister, Svandis Svavarsdottir, has expressed the view that there are few justifications for continuing the whale hunt beyond 2024, given the lack of economic benefits and the decreasing demand for whale meat.

Whale hunting in Iceland has historically produced various products, with the most notable being whale meat. Traditionally, whale meat was not a staple in the Icelandic diet, but it was consumed occasionally, often exchanged with Basque or Dutch whalers for dairy products to diversify the local diet.

Credits: Shutterstock

In more modern times, whale meat has been primarily marketed to foreign markets, especially Japan, and served in Icelandic restaurants catering to tourists. The gastronomic use of whale meat in Iceland is thus more of a modern phenomenon than a traditional practice, with whale meat being a unique, albeit controversial, item on menus aimed at visitors interested in trying exotic local fare.

According to the "Un Italiano in Islanda" blog, there is a well-known restaurant in Iceland that serves whale meat, which has been storing the same stock of meat in its freezer for about ten years. Each day, they defrost just enough for the day's portions, which are small and expensive.

The primary reason behind Iceland's decision to halt whaling is the dwindling demand for whale meat, particularly after Japan, one of the main markets for Icelandic whale meat, resumed its commercial whaling in 2019. This move by Japan significantly reduced the demand for whale meat from Iceland.

These include the rising costs of whaling expeditions, stricter safety requirements for imported meat, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hindered the operations of whale meat processing plants. As a result, in recent years, there has been minimal whaling activity in Iceland, with only one whale reported to have been killed in the past three years.

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