cycling around Iceland!
Whaling is failing in Iceland...
Whaling in Iceland dates back into the depths of Norse history and culture. No industrial sized action was then in place, rather conflicts between families or clans over beached whale carcasses was the main quarrel. Narwhals were especially hunted for there unicorn horn like spiral tooth. The practice of whaling in Iceland began only with 'spear-drift whaling', and continued mainly in traditional form until the the late 19Th century. Spear drift whaling was striking a whale with a marked spear, hoping later to find the beached carcass and share it up between the whalers families. The Icelandic word for 'beached whale' and 'jackpot' is exactly the same - "hvalreki"!! The modern ways of industrial whaling were not created by Icelandic people, rather the methods were brought into the country by companies of other nations, mainly Norwegian. Today however, Iceland, Norway and Japan are still fishing for whales. Apparently prior to 1914 Icelanders didn't fish for Minke whales, as they believed that they were sent by the gods as protectors. Iceland is still however involved in industrial whaling under an objection to a moratorium which was set in place by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.
Whaling is probably the number one controversial conversation that has been surrounding Iceland for the last few years now. Is it good for the economy? Is it socially accepted?? If it does continue should it be controlled by an international governing body such as the IWC, giving harsher quotas? Isn't it more understandable to show off the elegance and beauty of Whales for profitable gain, rather than systematically destroy one of the more dwindling population of our oceans?! Stop now, or continue?!
The main thought about whaling which I received from most Icelandic people and fellow travellers, was that it is wrong and should be stopped as soon as possible! However, there are always a few people that don't mind, or don't notice what is going on. Whether they choose to shun the idea of diminishing or extinct populations of whales, or whether they just don't know what is actually going on. I spoke to some guys, that told me "whales aren't extinct or anything", they went on to explain that Icelanders have needed the jobs that whaling offers and also that it is a profitable and understandable organisation.
Surely it is more profitable and environmentally friendly (and therefore 'understandable') to exploit the tourism industry! Whale watching is one of the biggest attractions in Iceland and operates out of many ports all over the country. Husavik (north Iceland) and Reykjavik (South west), are the main tourist hot-spots for whale watching. They charge between 45euros and 55euros for adults, and 20euros for children. Some tours offering under 7's trips for free. Surely watching the grace of these aquatic mammals is far more financially suitable to the country of Iceland than fishing for the giants.
Iceland's image as a credible country, whom upholds a certain level of responsibility for the management of natural resources, has been somewhat tarnished by whaling. Increasing the numbers of tourists travelling to Iceland for whale watching and other tours will surely create and secure a long lasting and more sustainable future for Ireland's economy, rather than Whaling. There are presently organisations such as Greenpeace, whom are asking for people to boycott travel to the major Whaling countries, such as Iceland, Norway and Japan. Assumably this is to show the countries that the mammals are far more profitable as living creatures, then steaks or kebabs.
If whaling is allowed to continue, then surely stricter quotas must be internationally agreed upon for each and every country, and eventually be presented and overseen by an international governing body such the International Whaling Commission. At the 62ND ICW meeting last month in Agadir, Morocco, new and harsher quotas were put on indigenous whaling groups in Greenland, decreasing numbers of all whales allowed to be hunted by them. This shows some movement in the correct direction. I hope and believe that it is a matter time until the Icelandic government passes laws to ban whaling within their waters.
Surely fishermen of whales hold enough information on the where abouts and actions of whales, that they could be more use aiding scientists. Many fishermen I spoke to said that it was a way of life, and at the moment with the economic downturn it was the way they paid the bills. They seemed numb to the fact of diminishing numbers of whales, and didn't really talk heavily with me on the subject.
I believe that if more time and money is put into advertising Iceland as the adventure capital of Europe, that it could be, then the whole problem of whaling could be turned on its head, with more tourism and educational trips been run from all over Iceland. To me its a no brain-er! I very much hope that you agree.
A diving and snorkeling experience is offered by a company called Arctic Sharks, working out of the Reykjavik area. They are apparently the leading company offering various different dives, from ship wrecks and a unique dive between the continental Eurasian, and North American plates, to seal dives, puffin dives and even James Bond propulsion dives. Check them out at www.arcticsharks.com. Its companies like this that keep surprising me about Iceland. I honestly hadn't heard a thing about many of these companies until I got here, or until I stumbled across a leaflet in a hostel or tourist information shop. I have a passionate belief that this country really has more to offer than tourist giants like New Zealand. There is a brilliant wild feeling to the country. There is sooo much to discover here and much more to be done in the next decade to turn it around into a powerhouse of the future.
As far as whaling goes, I don't think that it's going to be stopped in the near future, although we can all hope. However I believe and hope that when they finally realise the benefits of having an abundance of these amazing mammals around Iceland, surely then things will change.