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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Update on Iceland whaling

An update on the situation with attempts to restart the commercial whaling business in Iceland. First a summary of events since late last year:

Initially it was reported that
... the tests were to be conducted at "independent laboratories in Europe" and "would likely take a few months."
It turned out to take longer, but Loftsson remained confident of lining up a buyer:
"We have not sold any meat. First we must analyse the meat. When that's done, then there will be no problems" ...
The story came up again in April:
Kristjan Loftsson, Hvalur's managing director, is waiting for the results of a months-long analysis of the fin whale meat his firm put on ice last fall. Once that is complete, he says he will have no trouble selling to buyers lined up in Japan.

He is also waiting for new, and hopefully higher, quotas from the government since the 2006 take was too small to offset the cost of setting up operations mothballed since 1989.


"It's good money," Loftsson said of whaling, declining to offer specifics. "If you can catch a proper amount of whales."


Loftsson said although he has buyers lined up, he has not signed any contracts and declined to name them or to say how much the meat would fetch.

... Loftsson said the analysis has taken much longer than expected.

"I didn't realise how laborious it is. They want PCBs, mercury and all sorts of analysis. You have to document the results and this is about close to 5,000 figures," he said.

"With all these food scares today, this is just (what) the (buyers) demand."

Once again another story from a few days ago:
Gunnar Berg Jonsson, from the Association of Minke Whale Hunters: "We expect to start hunting whales commercially from the beginning of July, although it is not clear whether the whole quota will be used. If a quota for the following fishing year is given out, we will continue catching minke whales until well into October,"
Regarding the tests:
This was supposed to take only two to three months, but not all of the results have come back.

"A buyer for the meat is available, once all the results are back," said Kristjan Loftsson from the Hvalur whaling company which hunts fin whales.
With a buyer apparently lined up now, whether the trade takes place or not seems to be solely dependent upon the test results (and politics too probably).

A few days ago, an Internet forum received a comment from a poster in Iceland who wrote that
"in the news yesterday here in Iceland ... he [Loftsson? Jonsson?] said that ... he was sure that the fin whale meat would be in japan by the end of summer"
So perhaps we'll be able to judge the veracity of this report by September.

* * *

Another aspect to the issue for Iceland is the effect on Iceland's national interests. Apparently tourism hasn't suffered:
... according to the latest statistics, Iceland's tourism industry stayed strong into the end of 2006.

Keflavik Airport saw an 11 percent rise in passenger traffic in 2006, while stays in Icelandic hotels were up by 11 percent in the first 11 months of 2006.

This was confirmed again in the June article:
Many people in the tourist industry, including travel companies abroad, felt that there would be a drop in the number of tourists coming to Iceland as would-be travellers could be put off by Iceland's whaling activities.

Discover the World (DTW) was one such company. They placed a statement on their website saying that they disagreed with Iceland's decision to restart commercial whaling.

"However, we have made it clear that the Icelandic travel industry is also very much against whaling and that they are the main force against whaling in Iceland. Therefore by supporting the travel industry you are not supporting whaling. We have found that this view has been widely accepted and that accordingly people are generally booking holidays there without any problem," said Clive Stacey, managing director of DTW, when asked about the issue.

In fact, there has been an increase in the number of tourists coming to Iceland this year, as has also been the case for the last few years. But this should not be surprising, as flights are now available from far more places than before, and at cheaper prices too.

* * *

Iceland's Marine Research Institute also reports that
Based on these assessments it is clear that annual catches of 200–400 minke whales are in accordance with the objective of sustainable utilization of the minke whale stock, as it is widely recognized that the population level giving maximum sustainable yield lies within the bounds of 60–72% of the preexploitation level. The Marine Research Institute therefore recommends that annual catches of common minke whales do not exceed 400 animals and further that catches will be distributed in accordance with minke whale distribution in the continental shelf area.
The Scientific Committee further concluded that annual catches of 150 fin whales for the next 20 years on the traditional whaling grounds west of Iceland would be sustainable. If catches were spread more widely, annual catches of 200 fin whales are sustainable.

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