Iceland is set to end whaling by 2024 amid a drop in demand for whale meat and ongoing controversy. Iceland is one of the few countries in the world to allow whale hunting.
Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote in a local newspaper, saying “why should Iceland take the risk of keeping up whaling, which has not brought any economic gain, in order to sell a product for which there is hardly any demand?”
Demand for whale meat significantly decreased in 2019 after Japan lifted its 30-year ban on whale hunting. Svavarsdóttir explained, “Japan has been the largest buyer of [Icelandic] whale meat, but its consumption is declining year by year.”
The pandemic also strained the industry as social distancing measures made the whale meat processing plants less efficient. The no fishing coastal zone was also extended, further placing challenges on the industry.
Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986 under the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Iceland left the IWC in 1992, however, rejoined in 2002 with a “reservation” against the embargo and the country began whaling again in 2006. It was heavily criticised for the move.