Thar She Blows!

By Woodard, Colin | E Magazine, January-February 2007 | Go to article overview

Thar She Blows!


Woodard, Colin, E Magazine


Last October, Iceland announced it would resume hunting great whales, breaking a 20-year moratorium on commercial whaling. Icelandic whalers will be allowed to kill nine endangered fin whales--the second-largest species after blue whales--and 30 smaller, more abundant minkes by the end of August. The killing has already begun: By the end of last November, whalers had killed seven fins, producing a storm of international criticism.

"It's outside all international norms to hunt an endangered species," says Susan Lieberman, director of WWF's Rome-based Global Species Program. "There is a commercial whaling moratorium in effect ... And targeting fin whales is a confrontational and aggressive act."

Twenty-five countries issued a joint diplomatic protest against the move on November 1, including the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, demanding the hunt be halted. Iceland's move further undermined the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the troubled international treaty organization that regulates whaling, by directly challenging its 20-year old moratorium. "They are testing what the international reaction would be, and I think they've found it has been pretty harsh," says Sue Fisher of Britain's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

Norway is the only other country in the world with a commercial whale hunt, but that is focused exclusively on minkes, which are about an eighth the mass of fin whales. Operating from small vessels, Norwegian fishermen kill between 600 and 800 minkes each year.

Stefan Asmundsson, the commissioner of whaling at Iceland's Ministry of Fisheries, says his country's hunts are sustainable, despite targeting an endangered species. …

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