NEWSWEEK: Your critics have condemned Iceland’s resumption of commercial whaling as cruel and unnecessary.Thumbs up to Rune.
Rune Frovik: The whalers are using very efficient hunting methods. The animals are dispatched with a grenade and die without suffering. About 80 per cent of the minke whales killed [for scientific purposes] in Norway die instantaneously.
But is it necessary?
This is an environmentally friendly way of providing food and it provides people with a living. You could just as well say there is no necessity for chicken or fish. We could live very well without either of them. People are entitled to be emotional; compassion is good. But you can’t hide the fact that whales belong to the animal kingdom, and as long as most people are prepared to eat other animals then we can’t see a big difference between eating whales and eating beef.
On the other hand, surveys suggest that there is now really very little demand for whale meat.
My understanding is that the whale meat that reached the Icelandic market was actually sold, so there must be some demand. Of course, there may sometimes be large stockpiles in the freezers, but that is because you have to supply the market through the year. But as Iceland increases its whaling they will look overseas, and export to Japan.
How can you justify killing the fin whale when it’s officially classified an endangered species?
The Icelandic population of fin whales is actually superabundant. International scientists agree on a total of around 25,000. That may actually be close to pre-exploitation levels centuries ago. It’s just wrong to say that it’s vulnerable or threatened with extinction. Iceland is capable of taking care of its natural resources when many other countries are not, as it has shown with [the preservation] of its cod stocks. The endangered status applies to the species as a whole and dates back to when there was heavy exploitation in the Southern Hemisphere, where the population was seriously depleted. But these are separate stocks which don’t mix. It’s like saying that the Chinese people are endangered because there are only a few in Iceland.
If that’s so, why were the fin whales ever listed as endangered?
It’s basically political. It makes a good sound bite—and a lot of journalists have swallowed that. The public has been misled. It doesn’t make sense to talk about a species being endangered rather than distinct populations.
If whaling continues, won’t Iceland’s image suffer, in particular, its tourism trade. Thousands of visitors now go Iceland just for whale watching.
People said the same after Iceland resumed scientific whaling in 2003. It didn’t happen. In fact the number of tourists increased. The same is true of Norway [after it also reintroduced scientific whaling]. We are living almost at the top of the world, close to the North Pole, and people will understand that this is how we make a living. We are seafaring people who harvest the bounty of the sea.
The whaling industry is small. Why does the issue generate such passion?
We consider this as an attack on our identity and our way of life. If we are told we are not allowed to use what is an abundant natural resource what will it be next?
June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 January 2010 February 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 February 2011 March 2011 May 2013 June 2013