Links to various documents on whaling
- Continuation of sustainable whaling - ministry press release: 2009
- Questions and answers about sustainable whaling: 2009
- FAQ on whaling
- Q & A on whaling in scientific context
- Minke whale research
- Declaration on whaling by the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries: 2006
- Ministry press release: 2006
Whaling in Iceland
Since commercial whaling was resumed catches of minke whale have been from around 40 a year up to 80. The last two years 60 and 58 minke whales have been taken each year. In 2006 7 fin whales were taken, in 2007 the catch was 125 whales and 148 in 2010. Due to difficult markets in Japan, no fin whales were caught in 2011. The market for products of the fin whale are almost only in Japan while the minke whale products are sold in domestic markets.
In 1986, the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) resolution on a temporary closure of commercial
whaling came into effect. In 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling on fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). The minke whale stock around Iceland is considered to be close to pre-exploitation abundance, and historic catches are not thought to have affected the stock appreciably. Based on a new stock assessments conducted by the Scientific Committees of NAMMCO and the IWC, the MRI, Marine Research Institute of Iceland, recommends that annual catches of common minke whales from the Central North Atlantic stock do not exceed 216 animals in the Icelandic continental shelf area and 121 animals in the CM area. This advice applies for the calendar years 2011 and 2012. Results from a fin whale sightings survey in 2007 indicate a total population size of 20 600 animals in the East Greenland, Iceland, and Jan Mayen stock area (EGI stock area), which is similar to the 1995 and 2001 surveys. On the basis of a recent assessment conducted within the Scientific Committees of the IWC and NAMMCO, the MRI recommends annual catches of up to 154 fin whales as sustainable and precautionary for the calendar years 2011 and 2012.
Whaling has probably been conducted from Iceland since the age of settlement. However, this was on a small scale during the first centuries of human habitation. When whales were sighted close to shore people would either try to drive them ashore or spear them. These spears did not have a line attached to them, as the boats used were much too flimsy to be able to fight a tug of war with the whales. However, if the fishermen were lucky, the spear wound would eventually kill the whale and it would be beached. Strict rules applied to stranded whales. If a marked spear was found on a stranded whale, the owner of the spear would be entitled to a share of the whale, wherever the whale stranded. Natural whale strandings were also important. In Iceland, the word “whale stranding” is indeed used for good luck.
Large scale deep sea whaling has been conducted around Iceland since the Middle Ages; not, however, originally by Icelanders but by Basques from Spain and later other Europeans. The main target species in those times were right whales and possibly humpbacks since they were the easiest to catch with primitive gear, therefore the “right” whales. This hunt was largely abandoned by the late 18th century due to overharvesting.
Late in the 19th century the explosive harpoon and steam boats were invented and large scale hunting of blue and fin whales began, initially by Norwegians. Consequently, those species were overexploited in most parts of the world. This modern whaling from shore-based stations in Iceland has been conducted intermittently for over a century, from 1883 until today. The whale catches from the end of the 19th century until 1916 were mostly large baleen whales such as blue, fin, and humpback whales. In addition, Norwegian factory whalers hunted in Icelandic grounds between 1929 and 1934. Small scale hunting of fin and sei whales was also conducted from an on-shore station in Tálknafjörður, western Iceland from 1935 to 1939.
From 1948 whaling operations have been limited to one station in Hvalfjörður fjord except for common minke whales which are taken by small operators in various parts around Iceland. During the period 1948-1985 the average catch of big whales was 234 fin whales, 68 sei whales and in the period 1948-1982 also 82 sperm whales. No commercial whaling was conducted in Icelandic waters between 1985 and 2003.
In 1986, the International Whaling Commission's resolution on a temporary halt in commercial whaling came into effect. Whaling for scientific purposes under a special permit in accordance with the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling took place in 1986-1989, and in those years a limited number of fin whales and sei whales were caught.
Since 2003 the Marine Research Institute of Iceland has carried out a five-year programme for cetacean research which includes the catch of a limited number of common minke whales each year. Since the conclusion of the four-year research programme in 1990, cetacean research has involved various activities including: Sightings surveys - in order to monitor population size and trends in connection with management.
Research on population structure and behaviour with the aid of photo-identification, satellite telemetry and skin biopsy sampling. Feeding ecology and multi-species modelling. Monitoring and research of stranded and by-caught cetaceans
Although information is scarce on the feeding ecology of most of the 12 species regularly occurring in Icelandic waters, information on biomass and residence time gives indications of total consumption by cetaceans in Icelandic waters, and possible impact on the yield of commercially important fish species.
Commercial whaling was re-established in October 2006, when the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture permitted the catch of a limited number of common minke whales and fin whales. Whaling is now conducted by many nations; the most important being USA, Russia, Japan, Norway and Greenland.
More information at fisheries.is
Some Links of interest
Iceland and commercial Whaling
Report of the Scientific Committee 2011
Catches taken under Scientific Permit
Aborginal Subsistence Whaling Catches
Catches taken under Objection
The Future of the IWC
Draft Resolution 2011 on Improving the Effectiveness of Operations within the IWC
Reports from IWC on Whale Watching
Report on the impacts of Whale Watching on Faxaflói
Declaration on sustainable whaling
Questions and Answers about sustainable whaling
Diet composition of minke whales in Icelandic waters
Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands
The Japanees Institue of Cetacean Reasearch
Whaling in Japan (wikipedia)
Japan Whaling Association
The world Council of Whalers
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Whaling and Sealing in Norway
Status of Marine Mammals in the North Atlantic
The long-finned Pilot Whale
Correcting perception bias for Icelandic aerial surveys,
2007 and 2009
Cetacean update of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Humpback whale on road to recovery