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Lamppost in Icelandic capital of Reykjavik with a sticker reading: 'Meet Us, Don't Eat Us'. Alamy Stock Photo

Taoiseach wants to 'see an end' to whaling and will raise the issue with Icelandic PM

Iceland, Norway, and Japan are the only countries that still hunt whales commercially.

Diarmuid Pepper reporting from Reykjavik

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he would like to see Iceland end the practice of whaling.

Varadkar is currently in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik for a Council of Europe Summit.

Iceland, Norway, and Japan are the only countries that still hunt whales commercially.

Last year, Iceland announced plans to end whaling from 2024 as demand dwindles.

Speaking last February, Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said she was considering ending whaling from 2024, citing dwindling demand and little economic gain.

“We have to be sure that (whaling) has positive economic impacts for the Icelandic economy before we make the decision to go forward with this after 2023,” she told AFP.

Demand for Icelandic whale meat has decreased dramatically since Japan – the main market for whale meat – returned to commercial whaling in 2019 after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The hunt had also become too expensive after a no-fishing coastal zone was extended, requiring whalers to go even further offshore.

Additionally, safety requirements for imported meat were more stringent than for local products, rendering Icelandic exports more difficult.

In Iceland’s whaling season in 2018, 146 fin whales and six Minke whales were killed.

In 2019 to 2021, only one whale, a Minke, had been killed in Iceland.

However, Iceland’s last remaining whaling company undertook a hunt last summer for the first time since 2018.

148 whales were killed in this hunt.

A recent report from the Icelandic food and veterinary authority found that whales have taken as long as two hours to die during Icelandic hunts.

Close to 40% struggled for around 11 and a half minutes before they died, while around 60% died instantly.

Speaking to reporters in Reykjavik, Varadkar said:

“In Ireland, our seas are essentially a whale sanctuary and we’ve seen the re-emergence of whales and dolphins and other sea life in recent years.

“That’s been great to see and it is an important part of tourism and also biodiversity.

“I would like to see an end to the practice of whaling. I understand, obviously, different countries make their own decisions.”

IMG_9883 A leaflet handed out in Reykjavik for a rally to coincide with the start of the COE Summit, calling for an end to whaling. Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal Diarmuid Pepper / The Journal / The Journal

Varadkar said that he is going to have a bilateral meeting with the prime minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir later this afternoon.

“So that is going to be one of the issues that we will discuss,” said Varadkar.  

“We are not free to tell other countries how to run their own affairs, but what we mainly want to talk about is areas around cooperation.

“We share the oceans, and biodiversity is going to be part of that (discussion).”

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