Saturday, August 13, 2011
The attitude in Iceland toward whales seems a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, Iceland is one of the few countries with a commercial whaling operation, and the country regularly kills Minke and fin whales. Minke whale is on the menu at many of the restaurants in the capital.
On the other, Icelandic people hand out pamphlets on the waterfront warning tourists away from the whale meat, saying that tourist consumption helps fuel the death of the animals. While whale meat is portrayed as a traditional Icelandic dish, only a tiny percentage of the population (something like 1 percent or 5 percent) actually eats whale regularly, surveys by environmental groups have shown.
We went whale-watching yesterday and the whale-tour companies are also firmly against commercial whaling, according to the pamphlets we saw. We did see many whales, looking just like the one in the borrowed photo above -- the rounded back of a dark Minke whale. We saw about ten of them, our guide estimated.
We also saw schools of mackerel, gannets and other seabirds and one lone puffin, flapping wildly away from our boat. (Apparently puffin breeding season is over, because their nests on one island were all empty.)
From what I've been reading, commercial whaling in Norway and Iceland has more to do with the appetite for whale meat in Japan and the desire by those countries to export products from their whale fisheries. Considering how terrible Iceland's economy has been, it's not surprising that they might turn to that option. I hope it's an unsuccessful ploy, though, and I hope they give it up.
One thing's for sure -- I'm not eating any whale.