“Workers hose down a large fin whale in Hvalfjordur, Iceland in 2006. The country broke a global ban on commercial whaling, killing the fin whale for the first time since the 1980s.”

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Iceland says it will end whaling from 2024 amid dwindling demand and continuing controversy.
“There are few justifications to authorize whale hunting beyond 2024,” when current quotas expire, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir said in an op-ed in Friday’s Morgunblaðið newspaper. “Japan has been the largest buyer of [Icelandic] whale meat, but its consumption is declining year by year. Why should Iceland take the risk of continuing fishing that has not yielded economic benefits, in order to sell a product that is in low demand?” she asked.

After a 30-year ban, Japan resumed commercial whaling in its waters in 2019. Commercial whaling was banned in a 1986 International Whaling Commission embargo, but Japan withdrew from the IWC in December 2018, marking their return to whaling by harpooning two minke whales. Svandís also pointed out whale hunting has been controversial and recalled that US retail chain Whole Foods had stopped marketing Icelandic products for a while as a result.

More than 1,700 minke, fin and sei whales have been killed in Iceland since the 1986 embargo, according to data from the WDC. The same report found that 852 fin whales were slaughtered in Iceland from 2006 to 2018 — adding that there was no whaling in the 2019, 2020 or 2021 seasons.

Fin whales are classed as a vulnerable species on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, while sei whales are categorized as an endangered. The status of minke whales is unknown, according to the Red List.

Iceland ends commercial whaling: a win 20 years in the making

Wonderful Whale Facts
How much do you know about different species of whales? Some interesting tidbits about these majestic creatures.

1. Complex Singers
Male humpback whales found in U.S. waters sing complex songs in winter breeding areas in waters near Hawaii, in the Caribbean, and elsewhere that can last up to 20 minutes and be heard miles away.

2. Massive Marine Mammals
The blue whale is the largest animal that ever lived and can grow to 90 or more feet and weigh as much as 24 elephants! That’s more than 330,000 pounds (150,000 kg).

3. Long-living Creatures
Some species of whales are among the longest lived mammals. Scientists estimate bowhead whales (a baleen whale found in the Arctic) can live for more than 200 years, and killer whales (a toothed whale found in various habitats worldwide) can live for more than 100 years.

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Image courtesy CNN and NOAA Fisheries / Marie Hill

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