Sunday, 21 June 2009

Icelandic whalers bring in season's first big catches

Friday, June 19 08:02 pm

Icelandic whale hunters have brought in their first big catches of the season, two fin whales weighing around 35 tonnes each, an AFP photographer witnessed Friday.

The boat, Hvalur 9, arrived overnight Thursday to Friday at the port of Akranes, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of capital Reykjavik, towing the bodies of the 20 metre (65 foot) long mammals.

The huge whales were swiftly carved up to separate the blubber from the meat, and a piece of meat was tasted by an inspector to check the quality.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace condemned the catch, saying Iceland would pay a high price for continuing the controversial practice.

"What little profit (the whaler) may take from this fin whale hunt will come at a great cost to Iceland - economically and politically," warned Sara Holden, Greenpeace International's whale campaign coordinator.

Iceland's whaling season opened on May 26, amid fierce opposition from environmental groups angered by a sharp rise in quotas this year.

Iceland increased its quota to 100 minke whales and 150 fin whales, from a quota of 40 minke whales and nine fin whales last year.

Many species of whales are now endangered and hunting of the marine mammal was officially banned with a moratorium in 1986.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that now authorise commercial whaling.

Iceland withdrew from the moratorium in 2006, and Norway in 1993, triggering an international outcry on both occasions.

Japan officially allows whaling for scientific purposes, but the meat is then sold to restaurants and supermarkets.

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