Ingibjorg Thordardottir writing on the BBC website has produced a thoughtful and insightful piece on the current relationship between Iceland and the UK. One aspect that she notes is that tourism between the two nations will now be strained - and that’s got to be a regret for all of us.
WDCS was once (actually more than once) asked to stop supporting tourism to Iceland as a 'punishment' for their whaling. Well, for one, we didn't think the whole of Iceland's 300,000 people were all in favour of whaling (despite what the Icelandic Government would have us believe) and secondly, we were very aware of colleagues in the growing whale watching tourism sector in Iceland who were becoming increasingly critical of their government's position on whaling. They have been a rallying point for an informed debate that has garnered more support from a growing number of Icelanders who felt their position on whaling was no longer valid for the 21st Century.
It seems that future policy may not be just in the hands of the Icelandic Government and the pro-whalers. Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, the Icelandic foreign minister, said that joining the European Union ‘must now be a long-term ambition’. Such a move had been fiercely opposed by the country’s fishing industry because of the likely concessions its fleets would have to make.
Ms Solrun Gisladottir said: “In the short term, our defence is co-operation with the International Monetary Fund and in the long term EU membership, adoption of the euro and backup from the European Central Bank.” Einar Gudfinnsson, the fisheries minister, admitted that there may be little alternative.
What this means for Iceland’s whaling we shall have to see. But one imagines that the whalers will try to play up the nationalistic role of whaling in the coming months – or cry ‘poverty’ to justify increased quotas. Lets hope I am proved wrong.
Despite all this I for one, hope that British tourists continue to go to Iceland in the coming year. I hope that they spend money with Icelandic whale watch companies, whilst avoiding any restaurants that sell whale meat.
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