Japan market forces halt to Iceland whaling

Hvalur resumed whale hunting in 2009, after a 20-year gap.

Hvalur resumed whale hunting in 2009, after a 20-year gap. Photo: Þorvaldur Örn Kristmundsson

Icelandic fisheries company Hvalur has announced it will be hunting no whales this summer – blaming the outdated Japanese market for the decision.

Japan is Hvalur’s main market for whale-meat products, according to Hvalur CEO Kristján Loftsson, but “endless obstacles” to marketing Icelandic whales there has made the company’s position untenable.

According to Loftsson, the Japanese are clinging on to 40-year old analysis methods used nowhere else in the world. Icelandic whale-meat products are accompanied by a full chemical analysis certificate.

“If Japan does not adopt modern testing methods such as used in Iceland […], Hvalur will no longer be able to hunt whales for the Japanese market,” he says.

Last summer, Hvalur hunted 155 finback whales, which are classified as an endangered species by the IUCN but are not endangered in the North Atlantic.  150 people are employed by the company to hunt whales and process the meat.

Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur.

Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur. Photo: Ómar Óskarsson




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