Modern Whaling

Whaling Resumed in 2009

In late January 2009 Einar K. Guðfinnsson, then Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture issued quotas for hunting as many as 150 Fin Whales and 100 Minke Whales per year for a five year period or the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Shortly thereafter Steingrímur J. Sigfússon became the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture. He was highly critical of the decision of his forerunner and searched for ways to reverse it. On February 18th Steingrímur announced that due to legal complications the decision for the year 2009 could not be reversed but the following years were still under scrutiny. A committee was formed to revise the laws on whales and whaling as well as the whole regulatory body regarding whaling.



Commercial Whaling in Iceland 2006-2007

On the 17th of October 2006, the minister of fisheries announced the resumption of commercial whaling, issuing permits for the hunt of 9 fin whales and 30 minke whales with the hope that the meat could be exported to Japan. Soon after the announcement, twenty five nations submitted a formal protest against this decision. Although maybe fairly abundant locally, this species is listed on the International Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) under the category: endangered. Despite all protests, 7 Fin whales and 7 Minke whales have been taken by the end of the season.

While awaiting the results of toxicology reports about the quality of this freshly caught whale meat, the Icelandic whaling company “Hvalur” assured reporters that a Japanese buyer was lined up. Nearly one year after the first whale was taken commercially, none of the 100 tons of fin whale meat have been sold.

In August 2007, the minister of fisheries announced suddenly that commercial whaling quotas would not be renewed for the following year because there was no demand for the product. After being criticized by the pro-whaling community, he revised his statement the day after, issuing permits for a limited catch of Minke whales for the domestic market.


Scientific Whaling 2003-2007

Iceland has carried out two scientific whaling programs under a special permit from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The most recent proposal described the intend to take 100 Fin whales, 100 Minke whales, and 50 Sei whales in each year, 2003 and 2004. This proposal was heavily discussed within the Scientific Committee of the IWC. Scientists debated the value of this research, the methodology, and the effect the whaling would have on the populations. Eventually, the permit was issued for the hunt of 200 Minke whales over a five-year time period between 2003 and 2007. The following table shows the number of Minke whales hunted during the program each year:


Whales taken under Special Permit from 2003-2007


Minke whales














In June 2006, the Scientific Committee of the IWC reviewed the report of Iceland’s scientific whaling program. By that time, 101 Minke whales had been killed. There was much concern over the sampling procedure, since nearly all individuals had been taken in coastal areas. The people in charge of the research blamed the bad weather conditions, which made it impossible to hunt further away from the shores. The Scientific Committee agreed that the remaining 99 animals need to be caught in deeper seas for this research to be representative and the results acceptable. The original sampling plots were based on a population estimate done by a series of aerial surveys between 1986 and 2001. However, the density of Minke whales offshore was not as high as these surveys suggested.
An additional concern was the high strike-and-miss rate. In 2005, 5 of the 39 killed individuals (13%) had been lost and could never be examined.
Go the IWC website for the full report . The section concerning Iceland is about 3 pages and begins on page 72.

The Scientific Whaling Program has ended in 2007, with the taking of another 39 Minke whales.
The following map shows where the Minke whales (red dots) were taken during the program. The blue areas mark the whale watching areas.