LONDON (AP) — Commercial hunting of fin whales can resume in Iceland but with stricter requirements on hunting methods and increased supervision, the North Atlantic island nation's government said Thursday.
Animal rights groups responded to the decision with dismay and called it “shameful.”
The temporary ban that Icelandic authorities imposed in June, on animal welfare grounds, ends Thursday.
Iceland's Food and Veterinary Authority estimated in a May report that 67% of the 58 whales caught by boats it monitored died or lost consciousness quickly or immediately. But it said 14 whales were shot more than once, and two were shot four times before they died.
Following the report's publication, a group of official experts evaluated ways to reduce “irregularities” during whale hunting. They concluded this week that “it is possible to improve the methods used for the hunting of large whales" and improve animal welfare, according to a government statement.
Fin whales are the world's largest whale species other than blue whales, according to the International Whaling Commission.
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said new regulations will include stricter requirements for hunting equipment and methods. The Food and Veterinary Authority and the Directorate of Fisheries will work together to supervise whale hunting, the ministry said.
Humane Society International, an animal welfare advocacy group, condemned the move as a “devastating" rejection of an opportunity to “do the right thing.”
“There is simply no way to make harpooning whales at sea anything other than cruel and bloody, and no amount of modifications will change that,” said Ruud Tombrock, executive director of the group.
The International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling in the 1980s due to dwindling stocks. Iceland left the IWC in 1992, but returned in 2002 with a reservation to the ban. It allowed commercial whaling to resume in 2006.
Along with Norway and Japan, Iceland is one of the only countries still practising commercial whaling. The country has annual quotas for the fin whales and minke whales fishermen are allowed to hunt in its waters. It exports most of its whale meat to Japan, but demand there has dwindled since Japan left the IWC.
“Hardly anyone eats (whale meat) here in Iceland ... People don’t want this, people don’t want the killing of these animals,” said Micah Garen, a climate campaigner and director of a documentary called “The Last Whaling Station.”
He said he and others are considering taking legal action to block the practice. “This is bad for Iceland, it's bad for the planet,” he said.