Dusting Off the Harpoons

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Iceland will resume the hunting of fin whales, officials announced Thursday, a move that is stirring controversy after the coalition government opted not to extend a temporary ban, Bloomberg reported.

In June, the government imposed a temporary ban on whaling following complaints from veterinary officials that the killing of the cetaceans took longer than allowed by animal welfare laws.

But Svandís Svavarsdóttir, minister of food, fisheries and agriculture said the government allowed the ban to expire Thursday, adding that whaling can restart Friday.

Svavarsdóttir acknowledged the concerns surrounding whaling, saying that her Left Green Movement wants to eventually end the practice. She noted, however, that the whaling industry holds a “valid license,” suggesting that to halt the practice would require amending the law.

Iceland, Norway and Japan are among the few countries still permitting commercial whaling. The majority of Iceland’s catches involve fin whales, a species classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Last year, Icelanders killed 148 fin whales.

However, the whaling industry has contributed a minimal amount to Iceland’s economy in recent years, according to a government-commissioned report.

Still, the resumption has triggered tensions within the three-party coalition government after some of the partners considered the June ban disproportionate.

Meanwhile, the government is planning to implement stricter regulations and enhanced supervision, training, and education regarding whaling practices and equipment.

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