Déclaration du Ministère de la Pêche concernant la chasse à la baleine

The Icelandic economy is overwhelmingly dependent on the utilisation of living marine resources in the ocean around the country. The sustainability of the utilisation is therefore of central importance for the long-term well being of the Icelandic people. For this reason, Iceland places great emphasis on effective management of fisheries and on scientific research on all the components of the marine ecosystem. At a time when many fish stocks around the world are declining, or even depleted, Iceland's marine resources are generally in a healthy state, because of this emphasis. The annual catch quotas for fishing and whaling are based on recommendations by scientists, who regularly monitor the status of stocks, thus ensuring that the activity is sustainable.

Iceland has for a number of years acknowledged the need for scientific research on whales to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the different whale stocks and other marine species and the role of whales in the marine ecosystem. Therefore, Iceland began implementing a research plan on minke whales in 2003. So far 161 minke whales have been taken and the research plan will be completed in 2007 when the sample size of 200 minke whales has been obtained. Whaling quotas take into account the number of whales that will be taken in the implementation of the research plan, ensuring that total catches will be well within a sustainable level.

Whaling has been strictly managed in Iceland for a long time. Long before any international agreements on whale conservation, the Icelandic Parliament (Althingi) banned all whaling in 1915 after a period of overexploitation from foreign land stations in Iceland during the period 1883-1915. This Icelandic "moratorium" lasted until 1948, apart from some limited catches during the period 1935-1939. Strict rules and limitations were applied to whaling in Iceland which was restricted to small-scale land based operation from 1948 to 1985 when all commercial whaling was again halted following a decision by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

There are many different whale species and stocks in the world's oceans. Some are in a poor state and in need of protection. However, many whale populations are far from being threatened or endangered. The taking of threatened or endangered whales is certainly not justified and is strongly opposed by Iceland. On the other hand, sustainable takes of animals from abundant populations are consistent with the principle of sustainable development.

The total stock size of Central North-Atlantic minke whales is close to 70,000 animals, of which around 43,600 are in Icelandic coastal waters.  Fin whales in the Central North-Atlantic number around 25,800 animals. Both these estimates have been agreed upon by consensus by the Scientific Committees of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO). The decision to resume sustainable whaling involves takes of 30 minke whales and nine fin whales, during the fishing year 2006/2007 which ends on August 31 2007. This will bring the total catches of minke whales in Icelandic waters during this fishing year to 69, including the minke whales taken in completing the research plan. These takes equal less than 0.2% of the number of minke whales in Icelandic coastal waters, an even smaller fraction of the total stock, and less than 0.04% of fin whales in the Central North Atlantic. Both are considered to be close to pre-exploitation levels and estimated sustainable annual catch levels are 200 and 400 fin and minke whales, respectively. As the catch limits now issued are much lower, the catches will not have a significant impact on these abundant whale stocks. A responsible management system will ensure that the catch quotas set will not be exceeded. The catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development. 

The resumption of sustainable whaling is legal under international law. At the time of the re-entry of Iceland into the IWC, Iceland made a reservation with respect to the so-called moratorium on commercial whaling. As a part of that reservation, Iceland committed itself not to authorise commercial whaling before 2006 and thereafter not to authorise such whaling while progress was being made in negotiating the IWC’s Revised Management Scheme (RMS), a management framework for commercial whaling.

At the IWC’s Annual Meeting in 2005 Iceland went on record expressing its regret that no progress was being made in the RMS discussions. At this years IWC Annual Meeting, Iceland’s judgement of the situation was reconfirmed as the IWC generally agreed that talks on an RMS had reached an impasse. As a result, Iceland’s reservation has taken effect. Therefore, Iceland is no longer bound by the so-called moratorium on commercial whaling. This puts Iceland in the same position as other IWC members that are not bound by the moratorium, such as Norway.

Several countries catch whales. The United States has for instance a five year block quota of 280 bowhead whales from a stock of less than 10,000. Of those who, like Iceland, operate within the IWC the biggest whaling countries by numbers and volume are the United States, Russia, Norway, Japan and Greenland. Like Iceland's, all those whaling operations are sustainable and legal and in accordance with the rules of the IWC.

Attached is an information paper containing some questions and answers regarding the resumption of sustainable whaling in Iceland.

 Questions and answers


Video Gallery

View more videos