Visiting Iceland? Please don’t eat the locals
WDCS calls on visitors to Iceland not to eat whale meat
A staggering 35 to 40% of the meat from minke whales slaughtered by Icelandic whalers is eaten by tourists visiting the country who often have no idea that their actions are propping up commercial whaling.
As a result, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) is launching a summer awareness campaign targeted at tourists thinking of visiting Iceland to draw attention to the fact that eating the meat, which is often offered as part of the ‘tourist experience’ in the country, plays a significant part in keeping the cruel and failing whaling industry afloat.
WDCS is positively encouraging tourists to this amazing country to get out to see the whales with a responsible whale watching operator, but ask that people think about the impact that eating the meat has on the whale watching industry, and also the cruel way in which these magnificent and intelligent creatures are killed before they are served up.
More than 100 restaurants and shops – including Þrír Frakkar, allegedly a favourite of Jamie Oliver, are currently selling minke whale meat. Iceland’s whalers are also putting more effort into promoting the sale of whale meat as an exotic food and are now offering smoked and marinated whale meat in addition to whale steaks for grilling. The Lava Restaurant at the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa boasts minke whale sashimi on its summer lunch buffet menu.
“Sadly, we are seeing increasing numbers of tourists walking off whale watching vessels and straight into restaurants that serve whale meat”, says WDCS whale watching lead, Vanessa Williams-Grey. “We ask that people resist the temptation to give the meat a try despite what you may be told by local whale hunters. The fact is that only a small percentage of Icelandic people eat the meat these days. The whales suffer a long and slow death, they are not suitable as a species for human harvesting and, contrary to myth, they are not responsible for reducing local fish stocks.
Whales are even killed in or near the whale watch areas. On at least one occasion this season, the minke whalers killed and processed a whale in waters designated as a protected area in Faxafloi Bay, near Reykjavik, also a prime whale watch area.
“We are urging people to check our website before visiting Iceland for a list of restaurants that should be avoided, and also to consult our handy guide to whale meat terms in Icelandic, so that tourists can avoid accidentally ordering the whale they watched only hours before.
We are also calling upon tour operators – particularly those based in the UK, US and Germany (the countries sending most tourists to Iceland) to pass on this information to their clients.
In a bizarre twist, whale hunters in Iceland are threatening to launch their own “whaling watching” trips in an attempt to boost income and are promoting them by offering tourists the chance to witness a shot being fired from a harpoon, see the insides of a whale and taste the meat!
“There is a reason that tourists cannot find whale meat on the menu at home - it is illegal to sell whale products in most countries”, said Williams-Grey. “Every exotic whale dish bought by tourists in Iceland, from carpaccio to kebabs, helps to keep the minke whaling industry afloat. WDCS wants tourists to support the Icelandic whale watching industry, not the whalers.” The minke whale hunt will continue through the summer.
For more information, please contact the WDCS Press Office on 01249 449 534, 07834 498 277 or email
Notes to Editors
1.When WDCS first started to look into the subject of whale meat for tourists in 2007, it found that only 50 shops and restaurants sombined offered whale meat for sale in 2007. In 2009, the number number of restaurants offering whale meat had risen to 27 and shops/supermarkets to 101.
According to a 2011 survey, the numbers of restaurants offering whale meat have increased to 36 definitely offering whale meat and another 8 that likely serve whale meat based on input from travellers, etc
2.Last year’s minke hunt resulted in the death of 60 whales, and much of that is due to the limitations of the domestic market. 148 endangered fin whales were killed by the Hvalur hf whaling company in 2010. see www.hafro.is/Astand/2010/35-engl-sum.PDF
3.The web site for whale meat sales can be found at http://www.hrefna.is/verslun/tabid/1118/categoryid/45/default.aspx
4.The first whaling watching tour is scheduled for July 4, 2011, for further details see http://www.whaler.is/
In addition to its campaign against sales of minke whale meat to tourists, WDCS has launched a consumer campaign highlighting the links between Iceland’s whaling and fisheries industries. The campaign, “Don’t buy your fish from a whaler” has the support of key UK retailers, as well as the internationally known fish supplier Findus. for more information, please visit http://www.wdcs.org/stop/killing_trade/index.php