“This is very good news for minke whales and for Iceland,” Sigursteinn Masson, the Iceland Representative for The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said in a statement. “Ending minke whaling will have a very positive impact on the far more economically viable industry of commercial whale watching.”
A spokesperson for IP Fisheries, the main minke whaling company in Iceland, said that several factors played a role in their decision. Last December’s enlargement of the whale sanctuary in Faxafloi Bay near Reykjavik meant that 85 percent of hunted minke whales that were historically harpooned are now in protected waters.
In order to continue to catch minke whales, fishermen have had to head out further and further from shore, but it’s not proven to be particularly successful. The industry had a self-allocated quota of 262 whales, but only 6 were caught – in June alone – which reports suggest is the most productive time for the industry. It’s the lowest number of caught whales since 2003, when commercial whaling restarted.
It’s notable that minke whaling was primarily conducted for tourists, who mistakenly assume it forms a traditional Icelandic dish. In fact, an extremely small percentage of the country is reported to regularly eat minke whale meat.
Tourists, however, are increasingly more likely to go whale spotting on boats these days, while the number of those eating minke whale has fallen quite dramatically, from 40 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2017.
Perhaps with increasingly unprofitable and time-consuming hunts, along with a string of grim headlines, minke whale hunters began to see the writing on the wall and threw in the towel.