Iceland is often listed as the greenest country in the world, but one industry puts a black stain on their green record – whaling. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on commercial whaling, but Iceland ignored the ruling and continued to whale., propelled by fishing mogul Kristjan Loftsson. However, with international pressures adding up, this year he called off the hunt, putting us one step closer to ending the practice.

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Conservationists and politicians have condemned Loftsson’s work in the past. He’s used his wealth in an attempt to revitalize the whaling industry in our day, even though very few Icelanders eat whale meat and the catch must be exported to Japan.

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The World Wildlife Fund lists the status of the fin whale as “endangered,” with only 50,000 to 90,000 left alive due to whaling. Fin whales are the second largest mammal alive, after the blue whale, and their role at the top of the food chain is vital for ocean habitats to thrive.

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In 2014, President Obama issued sanctions on Iceland for the trade. “Just as the United States made the transition from a commercial whaling nation to a whale watching nation, we must enhance our engagement to facilitate this change by Iceland,” he said. Whale watching is already a profitable industry in Iceland, bringing around $13 million per year.

Ports around the world began to deny entry to Loftsson’s ships, and last year veterinary inspectors went on strike and delayed the start of the hunting season, which begins in mid-June. Loftsson claims he won’t hunt this year due to Japan’s outdated chemical analysis methods on the meat, and he’ll only hunt again if Japan updates their procedure, yet data shows that Japan doesn’t consume as much whale meat as in the past.

“Harpooning fin whales and shipping their meat halfway round the world to Japan has always been as crazy as it is cruel. It is well-documented that whale meat contains high levels of toxins and much of the meat exported by Loftsson’s company sits, unwanted in frozen stockpiles. It seems that Loftsson has finally realized that his fin whaling has no future. The end of commercial whaling has moved a step closer today,” Vanessa Williams-Grey from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group told The Guardian.

It’s unclear yet whether or not Loftsson will hunt in the future, but for now, the international community sees this step as a victory. “We commend Loftsson on his decision which is a very positive development for Iceland, for whales, and for the millions of people around the world who care deeply about both,” said Patrick Ramage, whales program director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikipedia Commons (1,2,3)