Icelandic Whaler Wastes Hundreds of Tons of Fin Whale

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, February 5, 2007 (ENS) - More than 475 tons of whale meat, bones and entrails from a recent Icelandic hunt are going to waste, Greenpeace activists have learned following an article in a small-town Icelandic newspaper.

The international conservation organization has found that 200 metric tons of fin whale meat is sitting in storage waiting to be tested for chemical contamination.

A further 179 metric tons of fin whale remains - entrails and bones - have been buried at a landfill site and left to rot, according to Greenpeace Nordic oceans campaigner Frode Pleym.


Landfill in Iceland where a whaling company dumped more than 175 tons of fin whale remains. (Photo by Arnkvaern courtesy Greenpeace)
“Iceland claims their commercial whaling is sustainable – but how can they justify it when they are hunting endangered species, without domestic demand, and an over-supply of whale products in Japan?” said Pleym.

"Skessuhorn," a local paper in Borgarnes, a small town about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Reykjavik, broke the story in late January.

The fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, is listed under Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES. Appendix I species are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in these species for commercial purposes.

The fin whale is classified as Endangered in the IUCN's Red Data Book on the basis of an estimated decline of at least 50 percent worldwide over the last three generations of fin whales - from 60 to 75 years.

“Both Iceland and Japan continue to whale in the face of domestic and international opposition, even though there is no scientific, economic or environmental justification for it,” Pleym said.

Icelandic whaler Kristjan Loftsson was awarded a commercial quota of nine fin whales by the Icelandic government. He landed seven, with the total catch estimated at 350 tons.

But in late October or early November, Greenpeace confirmed, nearly half of this tonnage was dumped in a landfill about 24 kilometers (15 miles) west of Borgarnes.

The Icelandic meat and blubber in storage is intended for export to Japan, despite the fact that Japan had 4,962 metric tons of whale meat stockpiled as of October 2006, according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries.

Last year, 5,500 tons of whale meat was supplied to the Japanese market. This includes whale meat which does not get eaten and is thrown away because it did not sell, Greenpeace said.

“It is no surprise that there are massive stockpiles of whale meat, when a recent survey shows that 95 pecent of Japanese people never or have rarely eaten whale meat," said Greenpeace Japan's campaign director, Junichi Sato. "It is time for all governments to make a commitment to the whales and not an outdated, unwanted and pointless industry."


The fin whale is the second largest whale, reaching lengths of up to 27 meters (88 feet) and weights up to 69 metric tonnes (76 tons). (Photo courtesy NOAA)
Between 1883 and 1939, Iceland killed 2,294 blue whales, 1,541 fin whales, 213 humpbacks, 98 sperm whales, 10 sei whales and 13,502 more unspecified whales mostly blue and fin whales, according to historical records.

In 1946, Iceland became a founding member of the International Whaling Commission, IWC, the body established to regulate whaling and conserve whales.

According to a historical overview of Icelandic whaling compiled by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, from 1948 to 1986 Iceland caught a further 17,078 whales, including 163 blue whales, 9,180 fin whales, 2,644 sei whales and 2885 sperm whales.

Iceland stopped commercial whaling just before the ongoing IWC ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986.

In 1986, Iceland began to engage in so-called "scientific whaling" in order to avoid the moratorium on commercial whaling. By 1989 it had killed 292 fin whales and 70 sei whales for so-called research.

Iceland’s scientific whaling operation ended in 1989 and Iceland left the IWC in 1992.

In 2002, after two failed attempts to rejoin the IWC with a reservation against the moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland was readmitted.

Despite the disapproval of the IWC, on August 14, 2003 Iceland began once more to hunt and kill whales.