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Icelandic Company Cancels Its Summer Hunt for the Endangered Fin Whale

The whalers point to regulatory differences with Japan, their primary customer.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia (cc)

The endangered fin whale will be catching a lucky break this summer, at least off the shores of Iceland. Whaling company Hvalur, the Nordic country’s lone fin whale hunter, has called off its summer hunt because of “endless obstacles” in whale meat’s biggest market, Japan.

Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Hvalur, said he canceled the hunt because of Japan’s outdated meat-testing methods, which make it difficult for the company to sell its products, according to Iceland Monitor. Whale meat typically comes with a chemical analysis certificate, but Japan sticks to a 40-year-old system that no one else uses.

“If Japan does not adopt modern testing methods such as used in Iceland … Hvalur will no longer be able to hunt whales for the Japanese market,” he said.

Wildlife and conservation activists celebrated the news, especially since fin whales are classified as globally endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—although they are not endangered in the North Atlantic, where an estimated 20,000 fin whales are swimming about. Still, Iceland enforces a quota on how many whales can be hunted, and last year Hvalur brought in a total of 154 fins and 94 minkes (a non-endangered species of whale).

But the news isn’t completely cause for celebration. Hvalur will likely continue operations once its relationship with the Japanese market improves, and may even be using this opportunity to put pressure on Japan to update its testing protocol, environmental activist Clare Perry told National Geographic. Still, there is hope for the fin whale as demand for whale meat in Japan declines, depriving Hvalur of its primary market.

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