REYKJAVIK: Iceland’s controversial whaling season has come to an end with a total of 24 fin whales killed this year, whalers said, as the practice faces an uncertain future under heavy criticism.
Kristjan Loftsson, the head of Hvalur, the only company still hunting whales in Iceland, told the newspaper Morgunbladid that his whalers had wrapped up a shortened 2023 season.
This year the season lasted only three weeks in September, Loftsson told the newspaper late Saturday.
Iceland is one of just three countries that allow commercial whaling — along with Norway and Japan — in the face of fierce criticism from environmentalists and animal rights’ defenders.
Iceland temporarily suspended its whale hunt on June 20 for two months after a government-commissioned report concluded the hunt did not comply with the country’s Animal Welfare Act.
Monitoring by Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority of the fin whale hunt, in which explosive harpoons are used, found that the killing of the animals took too long based on the main objectives of the Animal Welfare Act.
Shocking video clips broadcast by the veterinary authority showed a whale’s agony as it was hunted for five hours.
The government allowed the hunt to resume as of September 1 with stricter requirements for hunting equipment and hunting methods, as well as increased supervision.
That included the presence of inspectors from the Directorate of Fisheries on board the boats, filming each kill.
Inspectors temporarily suspended one of Hvalur’s whaling ships in September after one of their shots hit a whale outside the target area and whalers were then slow to fire a second fatal shot.
Annual quotas have authorised the killing of 161 fin whales — the second-longest marine mammal after the blue whale — and 217 minke whales, one of the smallest species.
Whalers have however struggled to meet those quotas, killing 148 fin whales last year.
It has not yet been confirmed whether Fisheries Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir will announce new five-year quotas for whaling from 2024. Animal protection charity Humane Society International has urged Iceland “to put an end to this needless cruelty for good.”
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