On 20th June 2023, the Icelandic Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries halted the hunting of fin whales until 31st August. Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s decision comes after a report authored by a council of specialists on animal welfare found that whale hunting methods do not comply with the Icelandic Animal Welfare Act.
The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) authored a report on the welfare of whales during hunting, and the authors found that the killing of whales took too long based on the main objectives of the Animal Welfare Act. MAST subsequently commissioned a council on animal welfare specialists to assess whether whaling could meet the objectives of the Act. The council’s opinion was received by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries on 19th June, and the Minister decided to postpone the start of the whaling season the day before was due to begin,
Svandís Svavarsdóttir said, “I have made the decision to temporarily stop whaling in light of the unequivocal opinion of the council of animal welfare specialists…The conditions of the Act on Animal Welfare are inescapable in my mind: if the government and licence holders cannot guarantee welfare requirements, this activity does not have a future.”
There have been moments where experts claimed that commercial whaling in Iceland, one of the three countries where this is still practised after Norway and Japan, was going to stop, he the last remaining whaling company, Hvalur hf., announced in 2022 that it would resume its hunt that summer. Hvalur last hunted whales in 2018, but its CEO Kristján Loftsson, who has become the lone champion of Icelandic whaling for many decades, was determined to not give up to international pressure and continue killing whales, even if it is not profitable anymore. However, this new decision from the government, which has repeatedly been disinclined to ban whaling even if not all ministers support it, may change the situation.