Iceland whaling season kicks off amid protests

Date: 5/6/2009

REYKJAVIK (AFP) – Iceland’s whaling season began early June in defiance of protests from animal rights group that have called for an end to the practice and after international calls for it to reduce whaling quotas.

Iceland, one of two countries worldwide that still authorises commercial whaling, has set a maximum quota of 100 minke whales that can be killed during the whaling season, which usually runs from May to late September.

The first whales are usually killed in a bay just outside of Reykjavik as whaling is banned close to the harbour. The restrictions are to protect the whale watching businesses, which are popular with tourists.

He said 50 to 60 percent of the meat will be sold domestically, while the rest is sold to Japan.

Meanwhile, the International Fund for Animal Welfare led calls for the country to call off the hunting season by handing in a letter of protest at the Icelandic embassy in London.

Former fisheries minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said in February Iceland would make no changes to its whaling quotas of 150 fin whales and up to 150 minke whales per year, despite international calls for it to reconsider.

Prior to Sigfusson’s announcement, Iceland, which pulled out of an international whaling moratorium in 2006 after 16 years, had a quota of just nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, which are contested by opponents, and the whale meat is sold for consumption.

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