13 years – yes, it’s 13 years since whaling was resumed in Iceland and I started working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare [IFAW] inside Iceland to end this cruel and unnecessary practice.
Public outreach work, political lobbying inside Iceland and internationally, media work, close cooperation with the whale watching and tourism sector and scientific work has brought us quite far.
Fin whaling has stopped and minke whaling is down to 10% of the agreed quota. But it’s not over yet.
Since 2011, IFAW has collected 68,000 signatures on postcards on the streets of Reykjavík during the summer season, from tourists and a significant number of Icelanders all calling for an end to commercial whaling and promising not to eat whale meat. IFAW has done this in close collaboration with Icewhale, the Association of Icelandic Whale Watching Operators.
The postcards have been handed to the Ministry of Fisheries every other week in the summer time by international volunteers provided by the Icelandic organization SEEDS. Since I started leading this project in Iceland as IFAW´s representative in this country, we have had around 450 volunteers from over 30 countries participating.
Now we are taking our campaign Meet Us Don´t Eat Us (encouraging tourists in Iceland to enjoy responsible whale watching instead of sampling whale meat), online. We hope that will enable us to reach 100,000 signatures for ending whaling in Iceland before the autumn [to sign the petition, click here].
Participants also promise not to eat whale meat in Iceland and we talk to them about choosing restaurants which have signed up to our ‘Whale Friendly’ restaurants scheme and pledged not to serve whale meat.
We also have prominent and popular Icelandic artists helping us as we aim for our goal of 100,000 names. This number of signatures would make Meet Us Don´t Eat Us the biggest petition in the country´s history on an Icelandic issue, and one which mainly takes place within Iceland (look out for the below sticker in restaurant windows).
When I walk down to the cottage IFAW has in old Reykjavík harbor and watch the stream of tourists going for their whale watching trips, buying tickets in the booths lined down the pier, I can´t help thinking about the absurdity of the situation.
Iceland is, after all, one of the best destinations in Europe to spot a great variety of whales and dolphins, against a stunning landscape of natural beauty. Here four whale watching companies are taking more than 100,000 tourists out to see whales that the whalers are training their harpoons on only three miles further out in the bay.
This year two whaling companies are operating near Reykjavík Old Harbor. Up to 400,000 more tourists will come to Iceland this year than last year when a record 1.7 million visited.
Our studies show that 17% of these tourists will taste whale meat or around 350,000 people this year. Shockingly that is more tourists tasting whale meat than the total number of inhabitants of Iceland. There are only 330,000 of us living here.
Whales are killed to feed tourists. This is not only our slogan but a grim fact. We have changed the landscape in recent years. Many more whales would have been killed if not for Meet Us Don´t Eat Us but this is not enough. We need you to spread the word on social media and everywhere you can; particularly raise this issue with those who are thinking of or planning a trip to Iceland.
Curiosity killed the cat but curiosity is now killing whales in Iceland. This is brutal and unnecessary and we need your help to stop it from happening.
To sign the petition visit IFAW’s new Iceland page at ifaw.is.
Sigursteinn Másson is IFAW´s representative in Iceland. He started working with The International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2003. He was a TV journalist in Iceland for 10 years and made many documentary films for television. For 10 years he chaired The Icelandic Mental Health Alliance and was President of The National Organisation for Disabled People for more than two years. He is now a board member of The Icelandic Animal Welfare Organisation.