Historic change in Iceland’s whaling policy

Hard To Port has achieved meaningful change in Iceland’s whaling policy. All fin whaling operations will be monitored and filmed from now on.

Following Hard To Port’s revelations of obvious animal welfare violations during the first weeks of the 2022 hunting season, the government will start taking a closer, more critical look behind the curtain of Hvalur hf.’s activities, at land and out at sea.

A fin whale is being pulled up the slipway of the whaling factory in Iceland.

Two institutions, namely MAST (Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority) and Fiskistofa (Directory of Fisheries) will implement the new regulation in close cooperation.

It is a matter of celebration that these key institutions will cooperate on the inspection. The expertise can be found there, and the data collected will be able to determine whether whaling is legal” – Minister of Food, Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

Catcher ship Hvalur 8 leaves Reykjavík harbour for the 2022 hunting season.

Before the new regulation was announced, MAST (Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority) had started an investigation into potential animal welfare violations.

Sigurborgar Daðadóttir, the Chief Veterinarian of MAST, stated that an assessment will be made as to whether whaling complies with Article 27, a law on animal welfare that deals specifically with how hunting should be carried out.

The bodies of two dead fin whales.

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First fin whale killed in 2022

“Today is a sad day for whales and efforts to protect the oceans”, says Arne Feuerhahn of marine conservation organisation Hard To Port as he witnesses the first fin whale of the 2022 whaling season being landed at the processing factory in Iceland’s whale fjord. The harpoon ship Hvalur 9 returned on Friday morning with a male fin whale tied to its side.

“Sadly, we are witnessing the continuation of a wealthy person’s disturbing hobby – killing
sentient and precious marine wildlife for no good reason and in the most cruel way.

Both catcher ships are equipped with several heavy steel harpoons. Once a harpoon is fired into
the whale, an explosive tip is triggered that is supposed to guarantee an instantaneous death of
the animal. A study, however, shows that some animals suffer as long as 15 minutes once they
have been harpooned
.

Departure of Hvalur 9
Steel harpoons on deck of Hvalur 8

“Most people in Iceland know that whales are hunted, but they don’t know how they’re being
hunted. I believe this practice should be monitored, documented, and made visible to the public.
Visual footage of whaling is indubitably hard to look at, but it is an essential but missing puzzle
piece in an honest debate about the future of whaling”, Feuerhahn continues.

Shorty after Hvalur 9 returned to shore, factory workers started processing the animal.

It’s the first hunting season for Kristjan Loftsson’s whaling company Hvalur hf. since 2018. That
year, Icelandic whaling found itself in the international spotlight after footage emerged that
revealed the accidental killing of two rare hybrid whales (the crossbreed of blue and fin whales).

Earlier this year, the Icelandic Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir publicly cast doubt on the renewal of whale hunting permits past 2023 – an announcement that was met with cautious optimism from conversation organisations and people around the world.

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