Revealed: Icelandic whale in storage, landfill

Feature Story - 2007-01-25
In Iceland we have discovered an unprecedented amount of the whale meat from the recent hunt has not been used. Even whaling captain Sigurður Njálsson has said the meat is unfit for domestic consumption. 200 tonnes of the meat is in storage with a further 179 tonnes of entrails buried at a landfill site. But despite demand for whale meat plummeting, Japan and Iceland continue to hunt whales.

Dumping site for 179 tonnes of whale entrails in Iceland.

An old whaling station at Hvalfjörður in Iceland.

An old whaling station at Hvalfjörður in Iceland.

Archive photo: Hvalfjörður whaling station in Iceland. Seagulls feeding on the carcass of a fin whale.

An icy landfill site has been used to dump a vast proportion of the fin whale remains. Underneath the snowy floor around 179 tonnes of bones and entrails have been left to rot. Around 200 tonnes of meat and blubber - a vast proportion of the total yield - are sitting elsewhere in storage waiting to be tested for chemical contamination.

"Iceland claims their commercial whaling is sustainable - but how can they justify it when they are hunting endangered species, without domestic demand, and an over-supply of whale products in Japan?" said Greenpeace Nordic Oceans campaigner, Frode Pleym. "Both Iceland and Japan continue to whale in the face of domestic and international opposition, even though there is no scientific, economic or environmental justification for it," added Pleym.

Destination: Japan

The Icelandic meat and blubber in storage is intended for export to Japan, despite the fact that Japan already has 4962 tonnes of whale meat stockpiled (as of October 2006) according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries.

Last year, 5500 tons of whale meat was supplied to the Japanese market. This includes whale meat which does not get eaten and is simply thrown away because it didn't sell. Even if we generously assume all of the meat was in fact eaten, that is only about 46g of whale meat per person , as opposed to 5.6kg of beef, 12.1kg of pork, and 10.5kg of chicken.

"It is no surprise that there are massive stockpiles of whale meat, when a recent survey shows that 95 pecent of Japanese people never or have rarely eaten whale meat. It is time for all governments to make a commitment to the whales and not an outdated, unwanted and pointless industry," said Greenpeace Japan's campaign director, Junichi Sato.

Click the play button above to view recent footage from Iceland including interviews with the whaling ship captain and Greenpeace oceans campaigner Frode Pleym at the landfill site.

Thanks to Stod 2 - Icelandic television for footage of whaling captain.

No scientific, economic, or environmental justification

It seems that there is an awful lot of whale meat sitting in storage or buried in landfill, begging the question as to how these hunts can possibly be justified.  Despite this, the Japanese Fisheries Agency whaling fleet is currently preparing to hunt 10 endangered fin whales and 935 minke whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

On Thursday the crew of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza will sail to the Southern Ocean, in order to put themselves between the harpoons and the whales.

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