A letter to the Icelandic Prime Minister from wildlife tour operators?

Following on from last week’s blogs about tour operators and Icelandic whaling (see here and here ) I have had some fruitful and positive interactions with several tour operators who take visitors to Iceland.  I have to say that these have been entirely polite, apparently open and wholly constructive.

As a result I have drafted this letter in the hope that tour operators will sign up to it and that it can be sent to the Icelandic Prime Minister, the Ambassador for Iceland in the UK, and relevant Icelandic Ministers.



Dear Ms Jakobsdottir,

We are all UK-based tour operators who bring parties of wildlife enthusiasts to your beautiful country.

We have been visiting Iceland for many years and hope to do so for many years to come. We travel from north to south staying in hotels and guest houses, spending our tourist money, we hire vehicles, visit many geological sites, and take boat trips with whale-watching companies. We believe that our economic input into your country is valuable to the Icelandic economy as a whole and especially to some of the more remote parts of your country.

We are aware of course that commercial whaling takes place in Iceland, but to date have supported the view that contributing to your economy helps to oppose what many Icelanders and visitors consider to be a cruel and barbaric practice. However the recent killing of a hybrid Blue/Fin Whale in Icelandic waters has caused international outrage. It has certainly led to an increase in questions to us from some of our customers, and potential customers, about why we continue to operate wildlife tours to a country which allows these magnificent creatures to be hunted.

We understand that your Government is to review the practice of commercial whaling later this year, and we call upon you not to renew the licence for commercial whaling. Our ability to support Iceland, its international reputation and our contribution to the Icelandic economy now depend upon your policy towards commercial whaling.

Yours sincerely,

[List of UK wildlife tour operators.]


This has been sent to the following firms: Greentours, Travelling Naturalist, Heatherlea, Orcadian Wildlife, Sunbird, Birdquest, Discover the World, Naturetrek and Sarus Bird Holidays.  I am hopeful that several companies will sign up and I’ll give you an update this evening on whether any have or not.

And later this week I’ll post a letter suitable for individuals to send.

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8 Replies to “A letter to the Icelandic Prime Minister from wildlife tour operators?”

  1. I used to work for 'Discover the World' as they were once based near here at Bewcastle. They are 'Iceland' and use to have a brochure just on Iceland with another on their overseas destinations. If there was one company that could get this ban they are the ones. Mark Carwardine actually set up the company along with Clive Stacey but soon went out on his own. His new company http://www.markcarwardine.com/holidays-workshops.html
    does not seem to go to Iceland. I wonder why!

  2. Difficult, isn't it? Does the killing of one individual of one species of whale provide a tipping point beyond which we should not go? I don't believe so. You either a) continue to visit Iceland in the hope that their level of whaling doesn't put off your customers whilst reassuring them that their visit is helping to stop whaling altogether or b) you oppose whaling completely and stop running the tours. There is no evidence that a) works - in fact the continuing whaling is evidence to the contrary - and it's unlikely that b) would work because wildlife tourism is a small part of the economy, as it is in pretty much every country. Do we believe that whales should not be hunted? If we do, for reasons of conservation, then international pressure and law should be brought to bear to end it. If it's for other reasons, such as "they are magnificent", "they are highly intelligent and social" then we need to be very careful in my opinion. Here is a list of legal "quarry species" in the UK (from the BASC website); Gadwall, Goldeneye, Mallard, Pintail, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted duck, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Greylag Pink-footed Goose, White-fronted Goose, Golden plover, Common snipe, Woodcock, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Partridge, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and Jack Snipe in Northern Ireland. Are these worth more or less than whales?

    Lastly, if you take the letter above and substitute "Scotland" for "Iceland" and "Grouse shooting" for "whaling" you wouldn't need to change much else before sending it to Holyrood.

    1. Or you could always go with ‘Israel’ and ‘gratuitous killing of civilians’ and send it to them. In contrast to many countries I suspect that birding-related tourism in Israel is not insignificant, though no doubt it’s still only a very small fraction of the total.

    2. There is no reason of course why a very similar letter should NOT be written to the Scottish government. I don't understand the argument that the fact that there are issues here in our own country should mean that we cannot try to pressure the government's of other countries to change policies that we believe to be harmful. If we believe killing whales in Iceland, trapping songbirds in Cyprus and poisoning hen harriers in the north of England or in Scotland are all wrong we can surely campaign against all of them.

      I would add, though, that some commenters (and I am not suggesting that you are included in this, Andy) seem to believe that if you campaign against hen harrier persecution (say) but not against whaling (say) then you are somehow guilty of hypocrisy. I don't think this is true or fair. There are endless different environmental issues and no-one can possibly campaign on them all. You have to choose the issues that light your fuse and focus on them.

      1. Jonathan, part of the point I was making was that the legal killing of wildlife is part of the life of many countries including the UK and that opposition to that should be on conservation grounds, not on anthropomorphic perceptions of certain species. I don't think that a Minke Whale is more important than a Golden Plover or Snipe - or a Moorhen. Many people do. Also, you have bracketed legal hunting with illegal which I don't think is a good idea.

  3. Nothing is without consequences

    Instead of polluting remote places, people could visit an Horatio's Garden near them instead



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