Hunting of Whale Could Be Punishable by Law

The controversial hunting of a whale by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf. on July 8th may be punishable by law if the whale turns out to be a blue whale and not a hybrid. The results of the analysis of DNA samples taken from the whale are still being awaited. They will determine whether this is a blue whale or a hybrid between a fin whale and a blue whale. The hunting of hybrids is not forbidden, but blue whales have been a protected species since 1966.

Icelandic law includes a clause on whaling which stipulates a penalty for the hunting of blue whales. “This is an old law, which may never have been tested before,” Árni Stefán Árnason, who specializes in animal protection laws, told Morgunblaðið. The clause, which was updated in 1973, stipulates that the hunting of blue whales is punishable by fines and other penalties, in accordance with the law on whaling. That may include a prison sentence, if the violation is considered major.

“This would be considered a major violation, Árni remarked, “the killing of a protected species.” In his view, this penalty clause is in effect, but he doesn’t think that matters in this case. “The authorities will not want to follow through with this, among other things due to the strong connection that exists between whaling and the state power.”

Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, director of travel services at Promote Iceland, stated it’s hard to know how this issue will affect Iceland’s image abroad. Her organization has received a strong reaction from customers through emails and social media.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has been busy responding to the inquiries of foreign media regarding the matter, according to María Mjöll Jónsdóttir, manager of the ministry’s information and analytics division. She noted that the ministry has strived to explain Iceland’s position regarding whaling, especially when erroneous reports have been published.

“It is important for foreign media to realize that the hunting of blue whales is prohibited in Iceland. Also, that we take the matter seriously in this country and that a [DNA] analysis is being expedited,” she stressed.

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