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No More Whaling in Iceland?

When I began my environmental career as a youngster in the mid-to-late 1980s, there were effectively three nations still conducting commercial whaling: Japan, Norway, and Iceland. Japan has continued whaling consistently since, but Iceland has dipped in and out. There simply isn't much of a market for whale meat in the small Nordic nation, and the hunting of fin whales in particular was largely driven by the caprice of just one man. Now, the country's two whaling operations - for fins and for minke whales - have announced there will be no operations this year, for the second year running; for minke whaling, that means an end for good, and there is good reason to believe it means the same for fin whaling too. The primary two reasons: a closing of the market in Japan, where whalemeat is also far from popular; and a turning of the tide in Iceland itself. Whalewatching, not whaling, is now ascendant, and it was collective action by the country's whalewatching operators - turing the minke whale hunting area into a whale sanctuary - that did for the minke whale fleet. I detailed the situation in this piece for National Geographic. The development comes a year after Japan's whalers withdrew from the Antarctic and pelagic North Pacific and retrenched to their own waters, likely a precursor to their own ultimate withdrawal. Slowly but surely ...

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