Put a halt on whaling until August 31

Svandís Svavarsdóttir made a decision on putting a stop to …

Svandís Svavarsdóttir made a decision on putting a stop to fin whaling until August 31. Composite image

“The concusion of MAST is so decisive that it was clear that it was needed to step in,” Minister of Food Svandís Svavarsdóttir tells mbl.is.

The Professional Council on Animal Welfare at the Food Standards Authority (MAST) presented the conclusion of an opinion recently, stating that the methods of fishing applied to large-caliber whales are not compatible with the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. Today, the Minister made the decision to suspend fin whale hunting until August 31.

“There was a total lapse of time, as the result was so decisive that it is clear that it is necessary to postpone the beginning of the season so that we have the means to see if it is possible to make sure that the hunting is done in accordance with the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act,” says Svavarsdóttir.

"New data calls for a new decision"

At the start of the month, Svandís was a guest at the open meeting of the Althingi’s Industry Committee where MAST’s questionable opinion report on the welfare of whales hunting of fin whales in Iceland in 2022 was discussed.

In the new report of MAST it is stated that …

In the new report of MAST it is stated that fin whaling in Iceland does not adhere to the standards of animal welfare. Morgunblaðið/Ómar

The Minister also said that the revocation of the fishing permit was an onerous administrative decision that needed to have clear legal aid. That decision was not there at that point. She said that to ban whaling, the Icelandic parliament needs to discuss the matter.

What has changed?

"New evidence calls for a new decision. The situation I had, when questioned on the report, was not clear, it had not really been taken into account whether it would be possible to apply acceptable methods of hunting large whales."

She  mentioned that the college is appointed by the Minister on the basis of the Animal Welfare Act and, among other things, has the role of MAST and the Ministry within the Council on individual issues relating to animal welfare.

A fin whale at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður.

A fin whale at the whaling station in Hvalfjörður. mbl.is/Golli

"This concludes categorically that the basis for the actual basis is not a lie-in-the-ground basis – based on the data available – that it is indeed true, and that there is every reason to act."

It also mentions that the Minister is permitted on the basis of whaling laws and animal welfare laws to consider a number of issues relating to the conditions of whaling.

"Within that limit, we are responding."

Consultation with experts and licensees

Asked what work is currently being done in the ministry, Svandís says that the next steps are to consult with experts and licensees in order to see if there are any possible improvements, or other ways to do whaling.

“Or legal conditions to impose further restrictions on [whaling].”

She concluded that it is important to be careful that both legal reserves and proportionality are taken at every step.

Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir, the CEO of Fisheries Iceland (SFS).

Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir, the CEO of Fisheries Iceland (SFS).

Impacts 150 workers

Svavarsdóttir has been getting a lot of criticism within the government over this decision and furthermore Fisheries of Iceland (SFS) the organiation of companies in the fishing industry say this decision will impact 150 workers who were depending on the fin whaling season this summer and are now left out in the cold without a job or prospects this summer.

“The government, however, must now, as before, look to scientific and legal grounds when it comes to important decisions on the use of resources, fishing with Iceland, while abandoning its own feelings and political short-term interests,” the organization’s announcement reads.




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