The Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture recently announced an annual quota of 209 fin whales and 217 minke whales to be killed each year for the next five years by whaling companies in Iceland. On its website, Iceland’s government claims that the practice is “only directed at abundant whale stocks” and “science-based, sustainable, strictly managed, and in accordance with international law.”
But Icelandic travel industries worry that this announcement, and whaling in general, is tarnishing the country’s reputation and could potentially damage the tourism sector. According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributed directly to 8.5 percent of the country’s GDP in 2018 and directly supported 13,500 jobs (7.2 percent of total employment) in 2017. According to CNN, “A report from the University of Iceland said whale watching contributed $13.4 million to the economy, while the whale hunting company Hval hf. contributed $8.4 million.”
But beyond the country’s reputation, critics highlight the cruelty of whaling. Chris Butler-Stroud, spokesman for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), told CNN that “it’s a horrendous way to kill an animal. You have to have a good justification to kill an animal in this way, not just feeding tourists and exporting to the Japanese market.”
In late 2018, Japan announced it was withdrawing from the IWC and would resume hunting whales for commercial purposes in its own waters in 2019. Iceland is still a member of IWC.