Iceland and Japan continue to licence cruelty as fin whale hunts announced

Conservation news


Its been a dreadful day for whales, with announcements from two nations about the re-licencing of whaling operations and targeting of fin whales.


The Icelandic Food Minister Bjarkey Gunnarsdóttir today granted a licence for the slaughter of 128 fin whales in 2024 while admitting that she is only doing so in order to follow the law.

Speaking at a meeting of the Icelandic cabinet this morning, Gunnarsdóttir said that issuing the licence was not necessarily a decision that is in line with her views or the views of her party, but that she had to “..follow the laws and regulations.” This is a reference to action by Hvalur hf. in 2023 which successfully overturned a whaling ban introduced by Gunnarsdóttir’s predecessor on the basis of its resultant financial losses.

However a conflicting statement on the Icelandic government website said that today’s licence was issued; “..based on a precautionary approach and reflects the government's increased emphasis on the sustainable use of resources.” This appears to suggest that the Icelandic authorities are defending their decision not on the basis that they have no option, but that they see whaling as a legitimate and sustainable resource.

A working group established to review Iceland's legal framework for whaling is ongoing. This group, chaired by Þorgeir Örlygsson, former President of the Supreme Court, is evaluating the country's international obligations and the government's powers and responsibilities regarding whaling. The working group is considering the potential continuation, restriction, or prohibition of whaling. The group's findings, expected to be reported by Autumn, will form the basis for future policy decisions on whaling in Iceland.

Sally Hamilton, ORCA CEO said -

"Whaling has no future – it’s a dead industry that's now being facilitated by politicians who aren't brave enough to make the decisions that future generations will thank them for.

An official report commissioned by the Icelandic government last year concluded that using existing methods, there was no humane way to kill a whale. Nothing has changed in the meantime. No technological advances that in any way make whaling more humane. Informed by that expert advice, the Icelandic authorities are ignoring the cruelty that they know exists and allowing the brutal slaughter of sentient animals for no reason other than their own inability to make tough decisions.

This is a shameful abdication of responsibility by a Government that was elected on the basis of its Green credentials, and yet consistently shies away from addressing an issue of indisputable animal welfare and conservation concern and kicks the can down the road once again. We might reasonably have thought there were Green heroes in the Icelandic government. Instead it seems they are more Yellow than Green.

If the law is at fault, then it’s time to change the law rather than continuing to licence cruelty".


The Council of the Fisheries Agency in Japan has approved the proposal to add fin whales to its commercial whaling quotas, allowing for 59 fin whales to be slaughtered in the coming season. This is the first time that the species list has increased since Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019 and fin whales are now the largest species hunted by Japan - they also hunt minke, sei and Bryde's whales.

The council states that “sufficient numbers” of fin whales exist in the North Pacific, however there is no sound evidence to support this. Whaling can only take place in Japan's coastal waters.

The next step is for the Fisheries Agency to make an official decision in July, but this is likely to be formality.

Despite commercial whaling decimating whale populations globally for over a hundred years, there are still countries that think it is acceptable to hunt and kill whales for profit. Our work plays a vital role in helping to put pressure on UK and other governments to drive an end to commercial whaling globally, so please support us at to help us continue this important work.

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