Iceland issues license for 128 fin whales to be hunted this year

A fin whale is seen stranded, possibly stuck on its belly, in a shallow fjord on the western coast at Vejle, Denmark.
A fin whale is seen stranded, possibly stuck on its belly, in a shallow fjord on the western coast at Vejle, Denmark, on June 16, 2010.
(Benny F. Nielsen / Associated Press)
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Iceland’s government said Tuesday that it has issued a license to the North Atlantic nation’s last fin whaling company to hunt and kill 128 fin whales this year.

Animal rights groups say that while the number is significantly lower than in previous years, the decision to allow the practice to continue is inhumane and disappointing.

Iceland’s government said in a statement Tuesday that commercial whaling company Hvalur was given a license to hunt 128 fin whales in Icelandic waters and parts of Greenland and the Faroe Islands during the 2024 season, which typically runs from June to August.


The quota was half that of 2023, when the Icelandic government allowed for the hunting of 264 fin whales, according to the nonprofit organization International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Iceland’s whaling industry will be allowed to keep hunting whales for at least another five years, killing up to 2,130 baleen whales under a new quota issued by the government.

Feb. 23, 2019

“Today’s announcement represents a significant reduction in the quota and the duration of the hunt,” said Patrick Ramage, the group’s director. But he added that it was “absolutely ridiculous that hunting at any level should be allowed to continue.”

“It’s bad news for Iceland and bad news for marine conservation,” he said.

Iceland’s government temporarily suspended the commercial hunting of fin whales last year on animal welfare grounds.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority estimated in a May 2023 report that 67% of the 58 whales caught by boats it monitored died or lost consciousness quickly or immediately. But it said 14 whales were shot more than once, and two were shot four times before they died.

Officials said later that whaling can resume with stricter requirements on hunting methods and increased supervision.

Norway and Iceland, two of the world’s biggest fishing nations, announced plans Monday to defy a 7-year-old international ban and resume commercial whaling.

June 30, 1992

Fin whales are the world’s largest whale species other than blue whales, according to the International Whaling Commission.


The International Whaling Commission imposed a ban on commercial whaling in the 1980s due to dwindling stocks. Iceland, which left the IWC in 1992, returned in 2002 with a reservation to the ban and allowed commercial whaling to resume in 2006.

Along with Norway and Japan, Iceland is one of the only countries still practicing commercial whaling. The country has annual quotas for the fin whales and minke whales fishermen are allowed to hunt in its waters. It exports most of its whale meat to Japan, but demand there has dwindled since Japan left the IWC in 2019.

Last month Japan’s government proposed adding fin whales to an allowable catch list, which included three other whale species.

Hui writes for the Associated Press.