Protests over Iceland’s whale meat shipment to Japan

Environmentalists are protesting an Icelandic whaling company’s shipment of fin whale meat to Japan, insisting that it goes against international conservation regulations.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said the company in question, Hvalur HF, was ready to deliver 1,700 tonnes of whale meet to Japan, via the Angolan capital Luanda, in a similar move to when it sent 2,000 tonnes of the product in 2014 which triggered demonstrations along its route.

Sigursteinn Masson, a spokesman for IFAW in Iceland, described it as an “animal welfare issue”, noting that it was impossible to kill animals that big humanely. He insisted that there was no need for the country’s economy or fisheries to maintain such a practice. He went on to say that the shipment would come up against strong international opposition as commercial whaling was now an “isolated business” that most of the world wants brought to an end.

The whale meat was reportedly loaded aboard the Winter Bay ship near Reykjavik earlier in May but had yet to depart because of mechanical issues. Hvalur HF have declined to comment as yet.

Only Iceland and Norway openly defy the 1986 ban on hunting whales imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The anti-whaling group WDC said that Iceland’s fin whale haul last year was 137 and minke whale 24, compared to 134 and 35 the previous year.

Japan, meanwhile, exposes a legal loophole by claiming it hunts whales for research reasons. However, it has never denied that the whale meat gathered from such hunts ends up being consumed. But fewer people are eating whale meat in Japan nowadays, while surveys show the same is the case in Iceland.