This summer, as most summers, Icelandic whaling ships were planning to kill up to 170 endangered fin whales. But now the hunt has been cancelled, leaving these rare mammals safe – for one season.
Whale meat again
While it's fantastic news that the hunt won't be going ahead this year, that doesn't mean the whalers have suffered an outbreak of compassion. The Icelandic hunt is carried out by one company, Hvalur. The main reason the company gives for cancelling the hunt is that it hasn't reached agreement on wages with the Fisherman's Association.
But there's also a commercial reason. The main market for whale meat is Japan: last year, with the Japanese economy reeling after the earthquake and tsunami, the market was dead, and the hunt was cancelled. This year, the Japanese market still hasn't recovered enough to justify a hunt.
If Japanese demand picks up, though, Hvalur might well decide it's worth its while to go ahead with the hunt: the fight is by no means over. Iceland's self-imposed system of quotas for hunting whales runs to 2014. In the end it's up to the Icelandic government – can we persuade them not renew the licence to kill these endangered animals?