For decades the whale populations have been in decline, but this past year has seen a number of key developments that suggest whale populations are rebounding. In October, we published a story about southwest Atlantic humpback whales, which have returned from the brink of extinction after excessive whaling in the 1920s. That story was followed up in February with another one about the unprecedented uptick in Antarctic blue whale sightings. And just last week, we wrote about how the coronavirus has put the fishing industry on hold, allowing marine life to rebound.
Today, we bring you more good news for whales. In Iceland, two traditional whaling companies have continued to whale in spite of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placing a global moratorium on whaling in 1986. But now both companies have announced that they will not be whaling this year.
One company, IP-Utgerd, is stopping its whaling operations permanently, while the other, Hvalur hf., won’t be hunting any whales for the second year in a row. IP-Utgerd, which mainly targeted minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), cited financial difficulties after no-fishing zones were extended off the Icelandic coast, forcing its boats to go further and further offshore. Hvalur, which hunts threatened fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), is ceasing operations because of stiff competition with Japan, which unfortunately subsidizes whaling off its shores.
For conservationists, this interruption to whaling, however long it lasts, is welcome news as it will allow vulnerable fin whales to get a chance to rebound. With that said, the hope for all conservationists is that whalers in Iceland will hang up their harpoons for good.