Two-thirds of Icelanders back whaling

More than two thirds of Icelanders favour the country’s return to commercial whaling and more than half would support an increase of its whaling quota, according to a poll published Wednesday.

Just over 67 percent of the 1,597 people questioned by the Capacent Gallup polling institute between January 29 and February 2 said they were either very or rather supportive of Iceland’s commercial whaling.

Nearly a fifth of those polled, 19.7 percent, meanwhile said they were rather or very opposed to the practice, which was relaunched in 2006 after Iceland ended 16 years of adhering to an international whaling moratorium.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, although the whale meat is sold for consumption.

The Capacent Gallup poll was published just a day after Iceland’s new Fisheries Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said he might revise a six-fold increase in the country’s disputed commercial whale hunt set by the previous government a week ago.

The exiting government increased the quota on January 27, a day after tendering its resignation, to 150 fin whales and up to 150 minke whales, up from a previous quota of just nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.

When asked if they supported the quota increase, 56.9 percent of those surveyed for Wednesday’s poll said they were very or rather supportive of the hike, while 30.6 percent said they were opposed.

The response was far less positive however when Icelanders were asked how the controversial hunt was affecting their country’s image abroad.

Forty-one percent said whaling would hurt the country’s reputation, while only 3.1 percent said it would help and 55.2 percent said it would have no impact.

As the North Atlantic island nation of 320,000 struggles to ward off national bankruptcy after its financial sector crumbled in October, most of those polled meanwhile said they thought the whaling industry could improve the economy and help curb its soaring unemployment rate.

Nearly 58 percent said the industry would create more jobs in Iceland while a full 61.2 percent said it would help boost the country’s overall economy. Only 13.2 percent said they though the hunt would be detrimental to the job situation while 12 percent said it would have a negative impact on the economy.