Victory for endangered fin whales in Iceland


A few hours after the crew of the John Paul DeJoria arrived in Icelandic waters, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture announced her decision to temporarily stop Kristján Loftsson’s illegal whaling operations.

“I have made the decision to temporarily stop whaling in light of the unequivocal opinion of the professional council on animal welfare,” said the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, “the conditions of the law on animal welfare are inescapable in my mind, if the government and license holders cannot guarantee welfare requirements, this activity does not see a future.”

The timing of the Minister’s decision comes after years of campaigning since the sinking of half of Iceland’s whaling fleet in 1986 by members of Captain Paul Watson’s former organization.

Since 2018, activists have monitored the whaling station for the entire season, joined new coalitions and have assisted legal work against Kristjan Loftsson’s Hvalur hf. The recent release of a long delayed but extensive report by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) found that the median time it took for the whales to die was 11.5 minutes, with some struggling for life for more than two hours. A total of 36 whales (of those filmed) needed to be shot more than once, with five shot three times and four shot five times. One whale was chased for more than five hours with a harpoon in its back before it was lost (likely to die). Following the report, intense opposition to Loftsson’s whaling put pressure on the Icelandic government to re-assess the decision to allow Hvalur hf to begin the whaling season.

An expert review board was tasked by the Icelandic Food Ministry to determine if the whale hunt could meet the objectives of the existing laws, and on June 19th the experts announced that the methods used for whaling do not, and likely could never comply with the provisions of the Act on Animal Welfare 55/2013 – thereby making fin whaling illegal.

On June 18th, Captain Paul Watson sent a letter (inserted below) to every member of the Icelandic Althing (supreme national parliament) advising them of the arrival of the John Paul DeJoria.

“June 18th, 2023

To: The Honourable Members of the Icelandic Althing

Good day,

My name is Paul Watson. My crew and I onboard our ship the John Paul DeJoria will be in the waters off Iceland on Tuesday, June 20th.

Our intention in coming to these waters is to oppose the illegal operations of Kristján Loftsson, his Hvalur hf Company and his intention to kill up to 169 endangered Fin whales.

We have not come to Iceland to oppose the Icelandic government or the Icelandic people. Our argument is solely with this modern-day Captain Ahab, Kristján Loftsson.

There is the possibility that the Icelandic government may deploy the Icelandic Coast Guard to defend Mr. Loftsson’s interests in killing whales. That would be regrettable because we are committed to blocking Loftsson’s harpoons, and any confrontation would highlight the illegality and unpopularity of Loftsson’s unethically cruel activities.

We are 32 crew from 12 different nations onboard. If arrested for any reason, we will use the arrests to further focus attention on the illegality of Loftsson’s cruel operations.

It is evident that Kristján Loftsson is seeking to provoke a nationalistic response to our interventions. However, we are confident that many Icelanders are impatient with his obsession with slaughtering endangered Fin whales and some Icelanders are concerned with the bad reputation that Iceland has suffered because of one man’s obsession.

What we can promise is that consistent with our unblemished record of non-violence, my ship and my crew will not cause any injury to any person employed on the whaling ships. Our long record of not causing injury to those we oppose is a record we are very proud of and intend to keep.

Our only concern is that Kristján Loftsson’s illegal whaling activities be shut down and that the endangered Fin whales be spared from his cruel and destructive harpoons. We have more rights in defending the whales than Loftsson has to kill them. It is in the interest of all of humanity that whales be protected because of their valuable contribution to providing nutrients to phytoplankton and sequestering enormous quantities of CO2. Killing the whales only benefits Kristján Loftsson and no one else.

I am confident that Icelanders are ecologically educated and thus concerned about the diminishment of whale populations in the sea. I am also confident that Icelanders are also concerned about the extreme brutality and cruelty of whaling. Please cancel permits and permissions to Kristján Loftsson this year and every year after this year.

We trust that you as elected members of the Althing will reflect the compassion and concerns of the people of Iceland and will put an end to the cruel and destructive practice of whaling.

Thank You
Captain Paul Watson
Founder – The Captain Paul Watson Foundation”

Although the Minister stated that this is a “temporary” halt, the reality is that this leaves little time for whaling to resume. A delay until August 31st means a delay until the whaling season is effectively over.

Captain Watson and the crew will stand by in the event that Loftsson is able to find a way to resume whaling. We will not allow for any whales to be killed this year or next year and we will not rest until the whaling ban is permanent.

“This decision means that we will not have a confrontation with the Icelandic Coast Guard,” said Captain Watson. “Iceland is well-aware of my reputation and that we are prepared to lose our ship and face arrest if need be and that would give us a forum in the Icelandic courts to address the need to oppose the illegal whaling activities of Kristján Loftsson. We are happy with this decision, and we will return if the decision is reversed. I do not want another whale to die at the hands of this modern-day Captain Ahab and his perverse desire to murder defenseless endangered whales.”

The John Paul DeJoria will remain outside of Reykjavik Harbor until we see all work halted on Loftsson’s whaling ships and the harpoons removed and stowed away.

On June 21st, the Captain Paul Watson Foundation made an offer to buy the two Icelandic whaling ships the Hvalur 8 and Havlur 9.

“Icelandic whaling is finished. These two harpoon vessels are essentially useless and will need to be retired,” said Captain Paul Watson.

The Captain Paul Watson Foundation would like these ships to be used in ongoing anti-whaling operations against the Faroe Islands, Norwegian and Japanese whaling operations.

If Kristján Loftsson agrees to sell the ships to the Captain Paul Watson Foundation, we will rename them the Rod Coronado and the David Howitt in honor of the two men who successfully scuttled the Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7 in 1986.

Thanks to each and every person who donated to the Captain Paul Watson Foundation. This successful voyage has finished what we started in 1986 with our campaign to end the illegal whaling operations by Kristján Loftsson.

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