AN END TO COMMERCIAL WHALING
Reader's Digest Canada|April 2021
Five Reasons to smile
Jason McBride

ICELAND Humans have hunted whales for thousands of years, with the animal’s meat, blubber and baleen a source of food, oil and construction material. In 1986, with some species on the brink of extinction, the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland, Norway and Japan, citing scientific research needs, never stopped.

In 2020, for the second year in a row, Iceland’s two remaining whaling companies decided to skip the summer hunt, with one of them, IP-Utgerd, announcing that it was stopping the practice forever. The companies’ reasons for ditching whaling are largely economic. In 2017, the Icelandic government expanded one existing whale sanctuary and added another, forcing whalers to travel farther offshore in search of their catch. Consumer demand for whale meat in Iceland, meanwhile, has steadily declined.

The country has also found a far less lethal way to make money off the wondrous sea creatures: whale watching. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of tourists going on whale expeditions grew by up to 34 per cent annually.

This shift, which has been praised by environmentalists like Árni Finnsson of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, dovetails with a growing awareness of the relationship between climate change and marine life. “In Iceland, the ocean is considered grey and dangerous,” Finnsson says. “But I think we’re coming to an understanding that we have to protect it better than we have been.”

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