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Worldwide call on Iceland to stop whaling

Commercial whale watchers worldwide call on Iceland to stop whaling

Sydney, Monday September 8, 2003: Whale watchers worldwide today condemned the Icelandic Government for jeopardising Iceland’s booming whale watch industry by restarting its whaling program.

The Icelandic Government intends to catch 38 Minke whales by the end of September and follow this up with a bigger catch of Minkes next year, supposedly to study whether they threaten Iceland’s number one source of income – cod fishing.

“This is the same kind of psuedo scientific misinformation the Japanese Government uses to justify its whaling,” says whale watch operator and leader of the International Alliance of Commercial Whale Watch Operators Frank Future.

“There are lots of ways to study whales without killing them. The ridiculous argument that whales need to be culled because they are eating all the fish is the same one that the Japanese Government uses. Whales have a right to exist in the ecosystem they’ve lived in for millions of years. It’s our responsibility to keep that ecosystem healthy.”

Ironically, nature based tourism like whale watching, has become Iceland’s second most valuable source of income. And whaling is jeopardising it. The Icelandic Government is ignoring pleas from Iceland’s whale watchers and tourism industry to stop whaling.

“Apparently the phones just stopped ringing once whaling started. As fellow whalewatchers, we know that’s disaster for commercial operators who rely on daily bookings,” Mr Future said.

“Whale watching is addictive. Once people have seen whales in one part of the world, they often become interested to travel around the world to see more.

“If the government of Iceland stops whaling forever, we will happily recommend to our clients worldwide that they also visit Iceland,” Mr Future said.

Whale watching has been the fastest growing sector of the Icelandic tourism industry since it started in 1995, with over 62,000 people watching whales there last year.

“Individual Minkes which are sighted on a regular basis by whale watchers are being targeted and whale watchers are devastated,” Mr Future said.

“Whale watching is a growing industry around the world as people realise whales are worth a lot more alive than dead. There’s great joy in seeing a whale breaching, or a mother teaching her calf acrobatics.

“We fully support the calls of our Icelandic colleagues for their government to stop this unnecessary whaling,” Mr Future said.

The International Alliance of Commercial Whale Watchers includes operators from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, the USA, Canada and Tonga and represents an industry worth around US $1.5 billion per year worldwide. Over 10 million people go whale watching every year.

Notes to editor

From the Hoyt report on Whalewatching 1998

• Iceland was the second fastest growing whale watch country in the world between 1994 and 1998, in countries with more than 5,000 whale watchers, with a 250.9% average annual increase. Taiwan, which went from zero to about 30,000 whale watchers during the period, was the fastest. The three next highest rates of increase between 1994 and 1998 are as follows: Italy (139.9%), Spain (123.6%) and South Africa (112.5%). The fastest growing continental region for whale watching is Africa, with an average 53% annual increase between 1994 and 1998, followed by Central America and the West Indies (47.4%).

• Iceland’s extraordinary average annual growth rate of 250.9% from the mid-to late 1990s is one of the highest ever growth rates in whale watching. There is some evidence from visitor surveys that the whale watch growth in Iceland might not have been so rapid if the country had resumed whaling.

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