Iceland is one of three nations in the world that still allow the commercial killing of the great whales. Despite an international agreement to set all commercial whaling quotas to zero, known as the moratorium on commercial whaling from 1982, the Icelandic government allows whalers to kill 154 endangered fin whales and up to 229 minke whales annually.
Since only about 3% of Icelanders regularly consume whale meat, most of the meat is either exported overseas to the Japanese market (fin whale meat) or distributed and offered to tourists coming to Iceland (minke whale meat).
Ever since Iceland resumed its commercial whaling operations in 2006, the killing of whales in Iceland has been met with opposition. As a result of growing national and international opposition, in February 2016 the highly controversial fin whale hunt was suspended and hasn’t been carried out during the past two whaling seasons.
While this was a major victory for the whales and those who have actively campaigned for their protection, it is only a partial victory. The hunt for the smaller minke whales in Iceland’s coastal waters continues unabated. Minke whales, a comparatively small baleen whale, can often be seen during popular whale watching tours around the country. Their meat is also often offered in restaurants and supermarkets and ironically labelled as an “Icelandic speciality”, despite the fact that whale meat is not popular among Icelanders.