Japan disaster may delay Iceland fin whaling season
Lack of demand from Japan and pressure from the United States may slow down illegal whaling operations this year.
Tue, May 10, 2011 at 02:21 PM
REPRIEVE: Fin whales, often hunted for their meat and exported to Japan, may not see as much poaching this year due to a decline in demand.(Photo: NOAA)
REYKJAVIK — Iceland's fin whaling season may be delayed by the giant earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the main export market for Icelandic fin whale meat, the country's only fin whaler told AFP Tuesday.
"We may be delaying the time at which our whaling boats go out to sea. We usually go at the end of June and we whale until the end of September. This year, that may change because of the situation in Japan," Kristjan Loftsson of Hvalur Hf told AFP.
"This doesn't mean we are not going to whale, we are just going to have to evaluate the situation come end of June. With commercial whaling you need customers and currently, Japan is not one," he said.
He said that purchasing of fin whale meat, which is also eaten in Iceland to a lesser extent, had stalled in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster.
"The whole nation is grieving... nobody wants to do anything because of what happened," he said.
Iceland, along with Norway and Japan, uses legal loopholes to flout a 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
In a letter sent last November to Icelandic Fishing Minister Jon Bjarnason, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke warned Iceland the United States was "deeply concerned by and strongly opposed to Iceland's increasing commercial harvest of whales, in particular endangered fin whales."
The letter said 148 fin whales were caught in 2010, up from 125 in 2009 and that prior to increasing its quotas in 2008, Iceland caught less than 10 each year.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare on Tuesday accused Loftsson's firm alone of being responsible "for killing 280 endangered fin whales in the past five years," welcoming the delay in the whaling season.
Copyright 2011 AFP Global Edition