Iceland Questions Endangered Listing

Whale skeleton with a visible harpoon wound on the right cheek bone

One of two species of whale Iceland currently hunts is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Iceland however, rejects this categorisation due to the method used to calculate the whales population.

By Stephanie Bishop-Hall

The fin whale is the second largest baleen whale and is recognised globally as endangered.

Gisli Vikingsson from Iceland’s Marine Research Institute (MRI) argues that this figure is misleading because it accounts for the global population of fin whale, as opposed to MRI’s method of calculating the population of fin whale in the North Atlantic region.

MRI, in cooperation with the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, conducts aerial whale counting expeditions to calculate the whales population.

“I am confident that the population in the central North Atlantic, which the Icelandic fin whale belongs to, is not endangered… IUCN takes all of the populations of the Fin whales and puts them together, just to simplify a bit, for the whole world and compares that number to the estimated number prior to whaling,” Mr Vikingsson explains.

Maria Bjork Gunnarsdottir from Elding Whale Watching disagrees, saying, “It is really hard to state that we are whaling sustainably when we know so little about them.”

Based on MRI’s research, Icelandic whalers are currently permitted to hunt 154 fin whales out of an estimated population of 20,000.

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