Returned whale meat sends stark message to Iceland

A whale leaps out of the oceanAnimal rights activists were celebrating yesterday as a ship carrying 130 tonnes of whale meat finally returned to its home port of Reykjavik. The meat from 10 whales had left the Icelandic capital in June, intended for Japan.

However, the boat carrying the shipment – operated by maritime transporter Samskip – first docked in Rotterdam and Hamburg, where it was met with fierce protests.

Eventually led the Dutch firm to announce it would send the whale meat back to Reykjavik. It also agreed with other carriers not to export whale meat from Iceland in the future.

Whaling has been banned under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), but the agreement is not recognised by the government of Iceland. Japan has circumvented the ban by exploiting a loophole in convention, purporting to hunt only for scientific purposes.

“No one wants this meat,” said Sigursteinn Masson, a spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said of the Icelandic shipment. “We wanted to make people aware of how pointless the whale hunt is, especially the finback hunt.”

The fin whale is the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale. Iceland had suspended its hunt for the mammals for the past two years, partly because the economic downturn had hurt its client base in Japan. It resumed the hunt this year.

Japan failed to sell three quarters of its own “scientific” catch in 2011, which many hope is a sign that the country’s appetite for whale meat – and the whaling industry – is on the wane.

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