Whales in Icelandic Waters,,

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Commercial whaling has not been on the Icelandic governments agenda during recent years. More and more people in the tourist trade are arguing that whaling should not start anew as the state will definitely get more income by endorsing whale spotting as a tourist attraction. But as so often before, there are more views than one and while conservationists and people in the tourist trade are all for non-whaling, commentators for the local fishing fleet maintain rightly that whales have increased greatly in numbers during the last few years and that a natural environmental balance must not be put to a risk (Do we know so much about nature and its balance?). They support the idea of recommencing whaling for domestic commercial purposes.

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 to find fin whales.  The quota of this species is 9 whales this year.  At the same time an additional quota for the minke whales was issued.

The cool clear North Atlantic around Iceland is teeming with whales of various sizes and species. Already thousands of tourists are enjoying whale spotting from various sites around the country. The whale spotting port in the North is Husavik, in the Midwest are Olafsvik and Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Hofn in the East, and the ports in the Southwest are Reykjavik and Keflavik and Sandgerdi, only a 40 minutes drive from the capital.  Although whale spotting in Iceland is growing, it remains tourist friendly. As a pastime, it is still exclusive and mostly operated with small crafts. The locations are not swarming with vessels full of tourists and only small groups participate each time. No other boats than those of the local fishermen are used, and as a bonus, guest are treated to a variety of sea birds, seals, and a glimpse of the midnight sun when the weather permits.

Many species of whales are spotted around the country. Most common are minke whales and porpoises, the latter frequently adding spice to the trip by leaping near the boats and following them playfully around. It is rather common to see the huge humpback whales, waving their flukes and sometimes people see them leap, leaving them breathless and a memory that it will not be easily forgotten. Killer whales are rather common, the most famous one, Keiko (Siggi), perhaps better known as Willy, was born and caught in Icelandic waters. Sperm whales are rarely spotted and pilot whales at times. If you see the latter, chances are you will see them by the dozens, as they tend to roam in large flocks


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