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On Tuesday 26th May, as Iceland’s whalers prepared to head to sea to start their annual whale hunt, WSPA joined forces with other whale welfare charities to protest outside the Icelandic Embassy in London, UK.
Accompanied by a life-sized ‘harpooned’ inflatable minke whale – one of the species of whales that will be hunted by Iceland this season – the group of protestors handed in a letter of protest to Icelandic Ambassador Sverrir Haukur Gunnlaugsson at the Embassy, calling for the country to act now to end whaling.
The protest group, which included representatives from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Campaign Whale, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) also ran a YouGov poll looking at British people’s attitudes towards Iceland’s whaling activities.
An overwhelming majority of the British public (82%) are opposed to Iceland’s whaling.
Almost two thirds of those polled (64%) were prepared to use their consumer purchasing power and avoid buying Icelandic products such as fish, prawns and other produce in protest at the country’s decision to start whaling again.
In a public interview earlier today, the Icelandic Ambassador said: “Various opinion polls in the UK that [sic] showed that the British public would be against our whaling. Also, many would not want to buy Icelandic fish anymore,” adding that he would send a letter to the Icelandic authorities later today.
Iceland's decision to resume whaling was taken by outgoing Minister Einar Gudfinnsson, who announced in January that 100 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales could be hunted each year until 2013.
However, since then a new government has been formed and with it a significant shift in the whaling policy.
The new government recently issued a statement saying that whaling, ‘will be totally reassessed with regard to sustainability and importance for national economy as a whole as well as Iceland’s international obligations and Iceland’s image’ but in the meantime a quota for this year remains in place.
Whale watching boat, Reykjavik
Campaigners are calling on the Icelandic government to stop the killing of whales and instead protect the more lucrative, sustainable and humane industry of whale watching.
In 2008, more than 100,000 tourists went whale watching in Iceland. One of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, whale watching is a multi-million pound a year industry, demonstrating that in Iceland whales are worth far more alive than dead.
Claire Bass, WSPA’s Marine Mammals Programmes Manager said: “Whaling is tarnishing Iceland’s image and damaging its two main economies – tourists don’t want to see bloody whales being dragged up slipways and consumers in the UK don’t want to buy fish from whalers. It’s time to pull the plug on this cruel, outdated and unnecessary practice.”