Iceland has just approved the killing of 2,000 whales over the course of the next five years. The country’s government is allowing whaling companies to slaughter 217 minke and 209 fin whales per year until 2025, sparking outrage among environmental and conservation groups around the world.

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Officials in Iceland believe that killing these two groups of whales is sustainable and based on scientific studies. In fact, the minister of the fisheries department, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, says that minke and fin whales are overpopulated in Iceland’s oceans and hunting them will help reduce overpopulation.

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“Whaling in Icelandic waters is only directed at abundant whale stocks, North Atlantic common minke whales and fin whales, it is science-based, sustainable, strictly managed and in accordance with international law,” a statement from the government read.

Not everyone agrees with the ministry’s research. Conservationists say that their conclusion is based on faulty research and that killing whales does not offer any benefits to the country. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), heavily criticized the new law, and claims that it does not have support from local residents— many of whom do not use whale products on a regular basis.

Whale watching is a huge tourism draw for Iceland. The whale watching industry accounts for $13.4 million of the country’s economy. Hunting whales, meanwhile, brings in around $8 million.

While Iceland employs more individuals in whale watching, hunting these ocean faring creatures pays more.

Regardless of the justification, hunting whales was banned by the International Whaling Commission back in 1986. The law was put in place because whale populations were on the decline due to hunting.

Despite these widely upheld laws, Iceland continues to kill whales on an annual basis — and minke and fin whales are not the only two species caught in the crosshairs.

In 2018, a whaling crew out of Iceland called Hvalur hf killed a blue whale, an act in direct violation of international laws. The incident sparked outrage around the world and drew attention to the country’s whaling practices.

Undeterred by worldwide condemnation, Iceland has not shown any signs of stopping the hunting of whales over the next five years.


Images via janeb13