Whale Watching in Iceland,
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& Activity

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Whale Watching Tours

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Fish Species

Whales are mentioned in the oldest documented sources and beached whales have always been considered a great perquisite, especially when times were hard.  At the time of settlement, there were probably more whale species in the ocean around the country than nowadays.  Two are known to have been hunted almost to extinction in the North Atlantic, the Greenland right whale, and the North Atlantic right whale.  Even the earth’s largest mammal, the blue whale, was endangered.  The Basks are said to be the first Europeans to hunt whales.  The Norwegians planted their whaling stations in the Northwest and East of Iceland in the 19th century and continued their whaling activities into the 20th, until they were not profitable any more.  The whales remained protected by law until the Icelanders commenced the whaling in 1948.  External threats and pressure from whale preservationist organizations brought them to an end in 1987.  The Icelanders withdrew from the International Whaling Commission in 1992 (re-entered in 2002), and pressure has been put on the Icelandic governments to permit the recommencing of whaling around the country ever since.  In August 2003 the Minister of Fisheries permitted the hunting of 38 minke whales around the country on scientific grounds.

The cool, clear North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans encircling Iceland are teeming with whales of various sizes and species. Already thousands of tourists have enjoyed whale watching from various sites around the country. The whale watching port in the north is Akureyri and Husavik.  Whale watching is also available from the Reykjavik harbour. These locations confirm, that whales are all around the coastline. And although whale watching in Iceland is growing, it is still far from being commercial. As a pastime it is still exclusive and mostly done on small crafts. The locations are not swarming with other crafts full of tourists. Small groups are taken out. There are no other boats except those of the local fishermen and apart from sighting the majestic whales guest are treated to a variety of sea birds, seals, plus a glimpse of the midnight sun weather permitting.

On October 18th 2006, the government of Iceland decided to allow commercial whaling again, and the first whale boat steamed 100 nautical miles out, almost to the fishing limits between Iceland and Greenland, looking for fin whales.  The quota of this species is 9 whales this year.  At the same time an additional quota for 30 minke whales was issued.  The Ocean Biology Institute recommended a quota for 400 minke whales in 2007.

When oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. Hundred years ago we didn't have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can't imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven't got the humility to try. We've been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we're gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.
Michael Crichton, "Jurassic Park"

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