People, Travel

Tourists Confused by Iceland Whaling “Tradition”

Tourists Confused by Iceland Whaling “Tradition”Tourists Confused by Iceland Whaling “Tradition”

Iceland’s burgeoning tourism industry is forcing the country to rethink its whale hunt.

While it is often Japan that courts controversy over whaling, both Iceland and Norway openly defy the International Whaling Commission’s ban on the practice.

Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006 and later resumed whale meat exports to Japan after an 18-year interruption.

Locally, whale meat is marketed as an Icelandic tradition despite the fact only about 3% of Icelanders eat it regularly.

That is misleading tourists, according to the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

“The only people eating whale in Iceland are tourists in the misconception that it’s an Icelandic tradition,” a Sea Shepherd spokesman said.

“It seems to be a sadistic hobby of a wealthy man that’s stuck in the thinking of last century.”

The man Sea Shepherd is referring to is Iceland’s sole fin whaler Kristjan Loftsson, according to Australia’s public broadcaster ABC.

Loftsson, chief executive of Iceland’s biggest commercial whaling company Hvalur hf, said tourism and whaling could coexist.

“People go whale watching and then they eat whale meat afterwards, and they love it; it’s a good meat,” Loftsson said.

However, increased protest action and a tourism-led recovery from the global financial crisis was now challenging the industry.

Local anti-whaling groups are putting pressure on tourists who eat whale to stop doing so, in a bid to prevent them fuelling the trade.

Meanwhile, Anonymous—the loose, unidentified collective of volunteer computer hackers or hacktivists—recently took down several Icelandic government websites in protest against the industry.

There were 180 whales killed in Iceland last season.

Loftsson announced earlier this year that fin whaling would not be going ahead this summer because of issues with his sole customer, Japan.

But he remains determined to continue next year and said Australia should reconsider its opposition.

“Australia should start whaling in my opinion,” he said.

“The humpback population [on the east coast] is 30,000 plus, multiplying by 10% a year.

“So you could start whaling, take a couple of hundred whales in the beginning and freeze the meat and sell it, and I’m sure people will love it.”

Sea Shepherd labelled the comments “offensive” and said “there would be very, very few people in Australia who would like to see that brutal regime restart”.