Iceland’s environment minister defended her country’s controversial decision to resume the hunting for whales, saying Thursday many critics believed falsely that the minke whale was an endangered species.
"We have 70,000 minke whales in the North Atlantic Ocean," Environment Minister Siv Fridleifsdottir told Reuters.
"It’s important for us to do this research, to know how the minke whale interferes and affects other whale stocks and other parts of the (ocean’s) ecosystem because the minke whale stock has been growing quite a lot," she said, speaking on the sidelines of a Nordic environment ministers’ meeting.
Iceland resumed whaling this month after a 14-year break, prompting international disapproval from governments and environment lobbies alike.
Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986.
Iceland, which plans to catch 38 minke whales this year, says it needs to carry out scientific whaling to study the impact of the mammals on the ecosystem, especially fish stocks crucial to the North Atlantic nation’s economy.
Reykjavik has received many concerned e-mails after the decision to restart whaling, Fridleifsdottir said. But many people were misinformed about how the hunting was carried out and thought the minke whale was an endangered species, she said.
It was still too early to say when the scientific data being collected would be published.
"We haven’t caught all of those 38 yet, so it’s too early to say when we have some results. It will take time to collect the data," Fridleifsdottir said.
Swedish Environment Minister Lena Sommestad, hosting the meeting in the town of Lulea in northern Sweden, reiterated Stockholm’s condemnation of Iceland’s whale hunt, saying it was too extensive and lacked a scientific foundation.
The Nordic ministers had not discussed the whaling, Sommestad said.