To the people of Iceland

Dear people from Iceland

I do like your country. I have visited it several times now, and it is really lovely. Gorgeous scenery, beautiful geysers and waterfalls and of course the elusive Aurora borealis (which I have missed, unfortunately). Oh, and your football team is getting better, and better as well, I might even have cheered for them once in a while.

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Blue Whale at the surface – 400mm, 1/400s, f/8.0, ISO500

 

But there is one thing which I don’t like. First of all, I do strongly oppose any form of commercial whale hunting. Yes, we Dutch were terrible in that as well. In the 17th century, we were, with the Britts responsible for the near extinction of the Bowhead Whales in the Barents Sea and in the early 20th century we took part in the hunt for the larger baleen whales. But, fortunately, we learned from our mistakes and decided to stop whaling altogether. Together with many other nations in the IWC, we agreed on a moratorium on any commercial whale hunting to let the whale populations recover.

 

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Two Blue Whales surfacing – 285mm, 1/400s, f/8.0, ISO500

Your relation with the IWC has been a difficult one. When they started the moratorium, you decided in 1992 to leave so you could continue your commercial whaling. In 2002 you rejoined the committee, but with the reservation, you would not adhere to the moratorium, so you could still keep your whaling. This hunt mainly focusses on Minke Whales, though in recent years Fin Whales have been hunted as well. Now I can see your point that the Minke Whale numbers have recovered and a limited number could be caught without harming the population (although I still don’t agree with it).

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A Blue Whale surfacing – note the mottled blueish-grey colour and small dorsal fin

 

However, Fin Whales are on the Endangered list by the IUCN, and little is known about their numbers in the North Atlantic. Not such a bright idea to start catching those, as they are most likely still recovering from earlier excessive hunting. But this week you did something appalling. By accident, you killed one of the biggest animals ever lived. One of the most gracious, streamlined and beautiful creatures of the ocean. You killed a Blue Whale! By accident, but come on, the difference between a Fin and a Blue whale at close quarters is simple. To make things even easier for you, I show you pictures of both species. The Blue Whale has a mottled blue back, while the Fin Whale is uniformly dark grey and has a much larger dorsal fin.

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A Fin Whale surfacing – note the much larger dorsal fin and the dark grey back.

 

If you can’t even keep these two beautiful whale species apart, maybe you shouldn’t be hunting at all. Which, after all, isn’t such a bad idea anyhow. In the past, many nations have shown we are terrible at sustainably hunting anything from the oceans. And beside this, there is a much more friendly, easier and far more sustainable way of exploiting this beauty. If you would fill the same ships with tourists and replace the harpoon with cameras, you could earn a lot more money off the same whales. And they will keep on coming back, both the whales and the tourists.

Would you consider this? I know most people in Iceland do feel the same as I do. Show your voice, make yourself heard! And stop this disgrace. That way I might keep on cheering for your football team and might consider another Aurora trip to your beautiful country.

Arjen

UPDATE: As it turns out, the whale shot was likely a hybrid between a Blue and a Fin Whale. Even rarer of course, but as it’s neither of the two species, it appears not to be covered by and protection. Still, from the pictures I’ve seen, it’s clearly not a Fin Whale, so the whalers should have left it alone.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

2 comments

  • Oh how I totally agree with you. How can a civilised country do such appaling deeds.

    We even let them beat us at football recently !!

    PS Recognise the Blue Whale pictures.

    Like

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