Whaling is an ancient practice. Indigenous peoples have long hunted the giant marine mammals for food, blubber, and other resources. However, commercial whaling efforts to harvest blubber and baleen began in the 17th century and continued through the mid-20th century. By that time, wasteful over-hunting had pushed many species of whale close to extinction. Subsequent conservation efforts and the establishment of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have since helped repair much of this damage. A new Icelandic ban on commercial whale hunting—which will go into effect in 2024—is yet another step in the right direction.
In 1986, the IWC issued a moratorium on whale hunting. Iceland objected at the time, and resumed licensing commercial whale hunting in 2003. However, in recent years, the demand for licensing has declined and licensees have abandoned their pursuit. Between 2019 and 2023, the law allows for the hunting of 209 fin whales (an endangered species) and 217 minke whales annually. However, only one whale—a minke whale—has been killed in the last three years. Two major licensees have abandoned the hunt as well. Hunting rights will terminate in 2023 and will not be renewed.
The coronavirus pandemic impacted meat-processing plants, while Japan's return to whale hunting in 2019 has decreased demand for exported whale meat. Ships also have to go further out to sea to get their catch given the expansion of protected waters. These are thought to have influenced the decline in demand for whale meat.
Whales are not the only marine species to receive increased protection of late. Hawaii recently became the first state to ban shark fishing in their state waters. This ban, like some IWC national rules, has exceptions for Indigenous hunting practices; Indigenous peoples have long been defenders of whales and other marine life. Protecting marine life and promoting responsible use of our marine resources is crucial to the planet's wellbeing, and ending high-volume commercial whale hunting is a good step.
Iceland will cease whale hunting as of 2024 due to falling demand for whale meat.
h/t: [IFL Science]