Specifically, the Government's announcement stated that Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Minister of Fisheries, had taken the decision to allow whaling in Iceland, at least until 2023.
According to the letter "With the success of whale watching in Iceland it is clear that a whale alive is worth more than a dead whale, especially when whale meat is not an Icelandic tradition, but one acquired from Norwegians a few decades ago. Polls have shown that less than one percent of Icelanders eat whale meat on a regular basis and 81 percent said they had never eaten it."
Julie Lasserre, one of the founders of Reykjavik Whale Save, Vice-President of Sea Shepherd Iceland and the marine biologist quoted in the letter stated that despite the ecological importance of the matter, there wasn't much media coverage during the protest in Iceland.
During the past decade scientists have been showing the importance of whales in marine ecosystems and their role against climate change. The "Whale Pump" concept explains that more whales means more phytoplankton, then more zooplankton and finally more fish. Whales are not only increasing the primary production of the oceans they also increase carbon storage which mitigates climate change.
By continuing whaling the Icelandic government is going against its own climate action plan that aims to increase carbon sequestration. We are asking the government to cancel its decision to renew the whaling permit for five years, a decision made by one minister, Kristjáns Þórs Júlíusson.
... the letter states.
Moreover, according to the letter, whales in Iceland are hunted by one company, only, Hvalur hf.
Julie Lasserre highlights that according to a pole that took place in 2018:
- Around 17% of Icelanders were strongly opposed to whaling;
- Around 17% were strongly pro-whaling;
- About 30 percent had no opinion.
Climate change is today the biggest threat to the planet and to humanity. For weeks now students have been striking for the climate to ask governments to take immediate action. How is it possible to deliver at the same time a hunting permit against species that help mitigating climate change?
Moreover, Iceland, having signed the Paris Agreement, launched a Climate Action Plan last year that not only fails to include whales but more importantly fails to include marine conservation in general. In January, some of our members attended the seminar “Defending our oceans against the climate threat” at Grand Hotel and again neither whales nor carbon sequestration by oceans (called Blue carbon) were mentioned. We asked the representatives present why those topics were ignored and they replied that they were not aware of them. One of our members, Julie Lasserre, who is a marine biologist sent an email afterwards to the Government to provide scientific references but no one has replied.
On the other hand, we are glad to see that whale watching companies have been working with the City Council of Reykjavik to create and even extend the whale sanctuary. But we do not understand how it is possible for Iceland to protect whales in one area promoting the observation of them alive in the wild, in their natural habitat, and at the same time to kill them in nearby areas? With the success of whale watching in Iceland it is clear that a whale alive is worth more than a dead whale, especially when whale meat is not an Icelandic tradition, but one acquired from Norwegians a few decades ago. Polls have shown that less than 1% of Icelanders eat whale meat on a regular basis and 81% said they had never eaten it. (Source: Gallup 2017) It is not even possible to argue for whale meat consumption for its health benefits since it is highly concentrated in heavy metals and therefore even more difficult to sell abroad.
For all these reasons mentioned, and the obvious corruption and conflict of interest that led to this decision being made, we have decided to protest in front of the Parliament on March 24th at 12:00.
We would also like to take this opportunity to formally ask for a meeting between representatives of the Government and our organizations to discuss these matters, and sincerely hope you will join us and listen to our concerns.
Best regards, Gaia Iceland, Jarðarvinir, Reykjavik Animal Save, Reykjavik Whale Save, Samtök grænkera á Íslandi, Sea Shepherd Iceland, SEEDS Iceland, Stop Whaling in Iceland