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Published on : Friday, May 29, 2015
A new app has been created to promote whale friendly tourism in Iceland. The free ‘Whappy’ app, launched today in Reykjavik by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), contains information about whale friendly restaurants, which have pledged not to serve whale meat, as well as whale watching operators, whale friendly souvenirs and an identification guide for whales and dolphins that can be seen in Icelandic waters.
IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale. Instead, IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a profitable and sustainable alternative that is better for whales and coastal communities.
Sigursteinn Masson, IFAW’s Icelandic representative, said: “The new app is another way of informing tourists visiting our beautiful country about the wonder of whale watching, but it also helps them make whale friendly decisions and ensure their trip does not leave a bad taste in their mouth.
“Many tourists are not fully aware of the contradiction of going whale watching then later eating whale meat. Icelanders have very little appetite for whale meat these days, so if tourists sample whale meat in our restaurants they are contributing directly to the number of whales being killed.”
In collaboration with Icelandic whale watching operators’ coalition IceWhale, IFAW operates a summer ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland with volunteers informing and educating tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat consumption. The project was launched in 2010 after it became apparent that with only a tiny percentage of Icelanders claiming to regularly eat whale meat (3% according to most recent Gallup polling*), tourists had become a significant part of the domestic market for minke whale meat.
At the time, whale meat could be found on the menu of all but a handful of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik. The percentage of tourists who say they have tasted whale meat has more than halved over the last five years from 40% in 2009 to 18% in 2014. In addition, the ‘whale friendly restaurants’ scheme has resulted in less than 50% of restaurants now offering whale meat on the menu. The rest have pledged not to serve whale meat and display a whale friendly sticker in their windows.
Masson added: “We hope tourists and tour operators will use our Whappy app and help enhance tourists’ experience. Iceland is one of the best destinations in Europe for whale watching with the opportunity to see a huge variety of species of whale and dolphin.”
Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 220,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.
The 2015 minke whaling season has already begun with unconfirmed reports that the first two minke whales have been killed, although the hunt is being delayed because of a strike by veterinarians who are needed to inspect the catch. Fin whaling, which is carried out primarily for export to Japan, is expected to start around June 15 this year.
Iceland’s self-allocated kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 229 minke whales this summer. A quota of 239 was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed. This year’s catch limit for fin whaling is 154. Last year Iceland’s whalers took 137 endangered fin whales.