Vacationers are again in Iceland. However so is whale searching


Reykjavik, Iceland (CNN) — After a four-year hiatus, Iceland’s final remaining whaling firm, Hvalur hf., will resume its hunt this summer season, a lot to the chagrin of tourism officers.

Because the Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impression on Iceland’s tourism trade, backlash over whaling is the very last thing many tourism officers need.

“It’s really well-known and broadly reported that the tourism trade believes that whaling hurts Iceland’s picture as a tourism vacation spot,” mentioned Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, the chief director of the Icelandic Vacationer Board. “All you want do is take a look at how whaling is reported on within the overseas press.”

“It’s typically reported in bigger publications with heated protection,” continued Jóhannes. “Within the tourism trade, each in personal corporations and in public polls; in letters, telephone calls, and in different communications, whaling has a really exact impact, and tourism corporations really feel it the second whaling enters the dialogue once more.”

Firm representatives have expressed outrage over the deliberate whale hunt. “The tourism trade and most Icelandic residents are in opposition to whaling,” mentioned Ásberg Jónsson, CEO of Journey Join, a big journey providers firm primarily based in Reykjavík.

“It is saddening and irritating to listen to that this firm, Hvalur, intends to renew killing these animals in Iceland. It is vitally damaging to our nation’s fame. This, in flip, has repercussions for our export and tourism industries.”

Stakes are excessive as tourism in Iceland floor to a halt in the course of the top of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’re an island, so clearly the barrier to journey here’s a little increased than folks visiting a neighboring nation,” mentioned Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, the top of Go to Iceland.

Dependence on tourism

Whale watching is a well-liked vacationer exercise in Iceland.

Matthew Williams-Ellis/VWPCS/AP

Whereas Covid-19 wreaked havoc on nations throughout the globe, many international locations aren’t as depending on tourism as Iceland. Main as much as the pandemic, tourism was the nation’s largest export.

In response to knowledge from the Iceland Chamber of Commerce, the sector’s development peaked in 2017 when tourism exports accounted for 42% of the nation’s complete exports.

Within the wake of the pandemic, GDP development took successful final 12 months. Actions associated to journey bookings, air transport, lodging and eating places decreased by 50-75% from 2019. This led to a contraction within the tourism sector by 3.9% of GDP in 2020.

Hvalur final despatched its vessels to hunt in the summertime of 2018, and a complete of 146 whales have been caught in the course of the season. Relying on the sunshine, the whaling season usually begins in June and lasts till September. It is estimated that about 150 folks work on the whaling boats within the whaling station in west Iceland and within the firm’s processing services exterior of Reykjavík.

The tails of two 35-tonne Fin whales killed by hunters in June 2009.

The tails of two 35-tonne Fin whales killed by hunters in June 2009.

Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Photos

Some argue that whaling is a part of Icelandic tradition and may resume.

“Whaling has an extended custom right here in Iceland, and I believe cheap and managed searching must be allowed,” an off-the-cuff employee on the whaling station, who didn’t wish to be recognized as a result of it might have an effect on his employment, advised CNN Journey. “It’s only round 125-150 fin whales hunted every year within the seven seasons since Iceland began searching whales once more in 2006. That 12 months, I believe solely eight whales have been hunted.”

Unfavorable emails

Tourism workers say whaling damages Iceland's reputation.

Tourism employees say whaling damages Iceland’s fame.

Mayall/ullstein bild/Getty Photos

It is puzzling to many who Hvalur, which is run by CEO Kristján Loftsson, continues whale searching in mild of the environmental issues and its poor financials.

“It’s troublesome for us to know why, as not solely is whale searching a dangerous follow, it is also now not a financially viable one,” mentioned Journey Join’s Ásberg.

Hvalur’s Loftsson declined to remark.

Iceland’s whaling actions account for roughly 3% of all whales hunted worldwide, in line with a 2019 report from Iceland’s Ministry of Industries and Innovation. In 2017, the full income of whale watching corporations amounted to three.2 billion Icelandic króna ($26.5 million). In the meantime, Hvalur’s income from whaling actions in 2017 amounted to 1.7 billion króna ($14.1 million)

Nonetheless, whale watching excursions deliver extra income as it is a common exercise for vacationers year-round.

Many are fed up with the impression of 1 firm, particularly as tourism corporations predict this summer season to return to a “pre-Covid” variety of vacationers, and a controversial concern like whale searching is disappointing.

“General, our journey manufacturers have not skilled lots of cancellations due to this, however every so often, we obtain unfavourable emails concerning the topic,” mentioned Ásberg. “We all the time clarify that as an organization, we don’t assist whale searching in any respect. Everybody ought to be capable to see these unbelievable creatures thriving of their pure habitat.”

A final hurrah?

Tourism to Iceland was hit by Covid.

Tourism to Iceland was hit by Covid.

Ryan Pyle/Getty Photos

The 2022 season could possibly be Hvalur’s final as the present license to hunt whales will expire in 2023, and Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture will then determine whether or not or to not cease issuing whaling licenses from 2024 onwards. It seems that there’s little demand for whaling merchandise and that the trade does little or no for Iceland’s financial system.

“Any whaling in Icelandic waters is science-based and in accordance with worldwide legislation,” mentioned Sigríður. “Hvalur has the required license to undertake whaling exercise this summer season. It’s as much as the administration and homeowners to find out whether or not they are going to use it and for the Icelandic folks and authorities to find out if any future licenses might be granted. Within the final three years, just one Minke whale and no giant whales have been caught.”

All Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in March 2022, and tourism executives have excessive hopes for a very good summer season.

“Tourism in Iceland is rebounding effectively,” mentioned Sigríður. “In our projections, we anticipate near-to-normal numbers this summer season and a full return the subsequent 12 months.”



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