AR-News: Iceland's whale hunt 'scientific'

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Tue Aug 19 18:58:48 EDT 2003

Iceland's whale hunt 'scientific'
RESEARCH: Country's president defends plan to take 38 minkes.

The Associated Press

(Published: August 19, 2003)

The president of Iceland said Monday that it would be wrong to ascribe any 
motive other than research to the country's first whale hunt in more than a 

Iceland launched three ships Sunday to begin hunting for 38 minke whales 
this month and next, despite the contention of several governments, 
including that of the United States, that there is no scientific basis for 
the research.

Animal welfare groups worry the hunt is a first step to determine 
international reaction to the possible resumption of commercial whaling by 

Asked whether that is the case, President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said, "I 
don't think we can assume that."

Grimsson was in Anchorage to attend Alaska Pacific University's Institute of 
the North conference to discuss social, economic, political and cultural 
issues common among Arctic nations and states.

The purpose of the hunt is to study the stomach contents of the whales to 
measure their effect on fish stocks, such as cod, which are vital to the 
national economy.

"We are taking 38 whales out of a population of 43,000," Grimsson said. 
"This is not commercial whaling. This will cost us a lot."

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to 
protect the endangered mammals but approves restricted hauls for research 
programs. Iceland carried out research whaling for three years after the ban 
-- catching fin and sei whales -- but then halted the hunts in 1989.

Under commission rules, members can issue permits to kill whales for 
scientific purposes.

Animal welfare groups and several nations opposed to whaling were outraged 
by the hunt. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has representatives 
in Reykjavik, the capital, and the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior was 
on its way to the country.

"This is commercial whaling. They are perverting the name of science to 
slaughter animals," Tony Banks, a lawmaker with the Labor Party, told the 
BBC in Britain.

Whale meat not used by scientists for research will be sold to consumers in 

The country's Marine Research Institute estimates there are 43,000 minke 
whales in Icelandic waters and says the hunts will not affect the 

Iceland initially proposed killing more whales -- 100 minkes, 100 fin whales 
and 50 sei whales for each of the next two years -- but scaled back the plan 
because of opposition from fellow members of the whaling commission.

Japan also hunts whales for what it says are research purposes and has said 
it is looking for ways to resume commercial hunting. Norway has ignored the 
ban since 1993.

Grimsson said Iceland is sensitive to political pressure from nations 
opposed to whaling and as a result chose to take a "very limited, 
scientific" approach to the hunt that could provide information that might 
help prevent overfishing.

Iceland is one of the few countries in the world with a reputation for 
preserving fish stocks, Grimsson said.

"Why should we suspect those internationally renowned marine scientists of 
any ulterior motives?" he asked.

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