Whaling in Iceland began with spear-drift whaling which was practiced from as early as the 12th century, and continued in a vestigial form until the late 19th century. The sagas contain accounts of whale hunting and eating. Jónsbók, the law codex of 1281, includes a clause about ownership of stranded whales. An unexpected beaching of whale often saved whole regions from want in hard years. This is reflected in how “hvalreki” (e. beaching of a whale) is another word for an unexpected windfall.
Iceland attaches great importance to the principle of sustainable use of living marine resources as
the sustainability of these resources is essential for the long-term prosperity of the country.
Whaling in Icelandic waters is only directed at abundant whale stocks, North Atlantic common
minke whales and fin whales, it is science-based, sustainable, strictly managed and in accordance
with international law.
Today the domestic market for whale meat is miniscule and public opinion has been increasingly against whaling as well. Instead Icelanders have focused on whale watching tours.
Photo: courtesy of Læknirinn í eldhúsinu