Don't buy from Icelandic whalers

BREAKING NEWS: Icelandic media is reporting that commercial fin whaling is unlikely to take place this summer due to onerous import rules in Japan. Last year, Hvalur killed 155 endangered fin whales, the highest number since the commercial whaling moratorium took effect. Although positive news for whales, the Don't Buy from Icelandic Whalers coalition will continue to monitor the situation, as whaling has stopped temporarily in the past (also attributed to factors in Japan), only to resume.

Icelandic whalers have killed more than 1,200 whales since 2006 and plan to kill 1,400 more by 2018. You can help stop the slaughter. Iceland's whaling industry is inextricably linked to its fishing industry. Join the Don't Buy from Icelandic Whalers campaign: avoid purchasing seafood from Icelandic companies tied to whaling.

Learn More     See the list of companies

What You Can Do

Consumer Pressure

If you buy seafood, ask your local supermarket, big-box store, wholesale club or restaurant to verify that their seafood products do not come from a source linked to Icelandic whaling. Refer them to the website if they have questions. If they cannot guarantee to you that the Icelandic seafood products are not "whaling free," don't buy from them until they can. Also, please write to the company's customer service department and ask for assurances that its products are not linked to Iceland's whale hunt. You can find a list of seafood retailers that have purchased from companies linked to whaling here.

The Don't Buy from Icelandic Whalers Coalition has joined forces with groups in Europe and is calling on Iceland's leading seafood export company, HB Grandi, to stop its support of commercial whaling. We have identified key companies that buy seafood from HB Grandi and its subsidiaries (see information below) and have written to ask them to ensure that they are not purchasing seafood supplied by these companies. Please, tell them that they should not support the killing of endangered fin whales, a protected and iconic species. Take action now.

Write Your Letter

Political Pressure

Please write to Geir H. Haarde, Iceland's ambassador to the United States, politely expressing your opposition to Iceland's whaling policy at or by mail to Embassy of Iceland, Washington, DC, House of Sweden, 2900 K Street NW #509, Washington, DC 20007-1704.

In addition, please write to Mr. Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, the foreign minister of Iceland, asking him to reconsider Iceland's support for whaling at or by mail to Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Raudararstigur 25, 105 Reykjavik, Iceland.

We encourage you to edit the letters provided in this link to make your submission unique before sending it.

Write Your Letter


When did Iceland resume commercial whaling?

Iceland returned to commercial whaling in 2006 and since then has killed more than 1,000 whales. In December 2013, the government of Iceland issued a new five-year quota for fin and minke whales, under which it approved the slaughter of nearly 2,000 whales.

Iceland's domestic market for whale products is small; it exports most of the whale meat and blubber to Japan, defying a global ban on international commercial trade in whale products.

In Europe and North America, conservation and animal protection NGOs have been encouraging the public not to buy fish from whalers, putting pressure on fish suppliers and retailers to ensure they do not source from Icelandic companies linked to whaling.

Slayed in Iceland - the ongoing exploitation of endangered fin whales from EIA on Vimeo.

Which Icelandic companies are tied to whaling?

There are direct links between Iceland's whaling industry and powerful elements of Iceland's fishing industry. Fish sourced from whaling-linked companies in Iceland is exported to the United States and Europe both directly and through third parties.

Iceland's domestic market for whale products is small; it exports most of the whale meat and blubber to Japan, defying a global ban on international commercial trade in whale products.

The Hvalur hf company has killed more than 700 endangered fin whales since 2006 and shipped over 7,200 metric tons of fin whale meat, blubber and other products to Japan. In addition to being used in sushi or soups, some of the meat from this magnificent—and endangered—species is used as dog treats.

Individuals and companies that are tied to Hvalur control a significant percentage of shares in HB Grandi, one of Iceland's leading seafood companies. In addition, individuals that manage these companies are also key players in HB Grandi's corporate leadership. For example, Kristján Loftsson, who partly owns and manages Hvalur, is the chairman of the board of HB Grandi. HB Grandi subsidiaries include Vignir G. Jónsson, Norðanfiskur, and Laugafiskur. In addition, HB Grandi owns 20 percent of the shares in a Chilean company, Deris, which in turn owns the Friosur seafood company.

Although not a seafood company, leading fishing gear manufacturer Hampiðjan is also linked to the whaling industry; Kristján Loftsson is a member of the company's board of directors, and companies tied to Hvalur own shares in Hampiðjan. Among the many products that the company produces is a nylon Dynex line identified as being used by Hvalur as a trigger line for the harpoons used to kill fin whales.

A dead fin whale, dragged onto the dock at the Hvalur hf whaling station in September, 2013. After being flensed, its meat was taken to HB Grandi in Akranes for further processing.

What is HB Grandi's role in Iceland's fin whaling?

HB Grandi, the largest seafood company in Iceland, holds roughly 11 percent of the country's fishing quotas, including for redfish, cod, Greenland halibut, haddock, saithe, mackerel and herring. It owns numerous vessels and operates several fish processing plants at which it also produces fishmeal and fish oil.

From the time that Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006 until 2014, fin whale meat was  transported by truck from the Hvalur whaling station to Akranes, where it was cut, packaged, boxed, and made ready for export in HB Grandi facilities.

In August 2013, HB Grandi's marketing manager, Brynjólfur Eyjólfsson, stated in an interview that the company "had nothing to do with whaling," even though at the time whale meat was being processed at the Akranes building owned by HB Grandi. Further, in March of 2014, Mr. Eyjólfsson repeated the claim that HB Grandi had nothing to do with whaling, including the processing of whale meat. HB Grandi CEO Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson has also gone on record numerous times to state that the company "is not involved in whaling and never has been." Yet throughout the 2013 and 2014 whaling seasons, meat from endangered fin whales caught by Hvalur hf was cut, packed and processed for export at the HB Grandi facility in Akranes.

In March 2015, HB Grandi announced that there would be no further processing of whale meat at their facility in Akranes. While it appears that whale meat was not processed at the HB Grandi site in Akranes during the 2015 whaling season, the company continues to be linked to whaling. On-the-ground investigations in September, 2015, found that a truck towing a container bearing the logo of Norðanfiskur—a seafood company wholly owned by HB Grandi since 2014—transported crates of whale products from the whaling station at Hvalfjörður to Hvalur's freezer facility in Hafnarfjörður. Further investigation revealed that the trucking company used to tow the whale meat, Eignarhaldsfélagið ÞÞÞ ehf., is a shareholder in HB Grandi.

In addition, there are still significant corporate ties between Hvalur hf and HB Grandi, not least of which is the fact that Kristján Loftsson, Hvalur CEO and HB Grandi chairman, is also chair of the HB Grandi board of directors. Vogun hf, the largest shareholder in HB Grandi with more than a third of HB Grandi shares, is almost entirely owned by Hvalur hf.

Iceland whaling 2015 from EIA on Vimeo. Seafood Giant Actively Involved in Largest Fin Whale Hunt Since Commercial Whaling Ban

Which companies are known to buy seafood from whaling-linked companies?

Companies that have pledged not to source from Icelandic whaling-linked companies

The Don't Buy from Icelandic Whalers Coalition would like to thank the following companies for their help in trying to end commercial whaling in Iceland:

  • High Liner Foods has stated that it is not supportive of any commercial whaling or trade in whale products, and will not enter into any new contracts with HB Grandi until it has fully divested its involvement and interest in whaling. High Liner renewed its commitment in October 2015.
  • Ahold Corporation confirmed its opposition to commercial whaling and undertook a full supply chain audit of its seafood suppliers, and indicated that it does not source from either HB Grandi or Hvalur.
  • Wegmans has stated that does not support commercial whaling or the trade in whale products, and that it does not source from whaling-linked companies in Iceland.
  • Iceland Seafood International (ISI) acknowledges that the utilization of whales is considered unacceptable by many, and that it does not deal with companies that participate in commercial whaling.
  • Trader Joe's has indicated its opposition to commercial whaling and trade in whale products.
  • After acknowledging that at least one of its operating companies purchased from HB Grandi, Sysco recently indicated it believed that the company "stopped all sourcing from HB Grandi and related companies." It is in the process of reviewing its supply chain, including new buyer information provided by the coalition.

Companies known to source from Icelandic whaling–linked companies

While many of the companies that import directly or indirectly from HB Grandi and its subsidiaries are not household names, a few companies are well known: 

You can find more information on other companies known to buy from Icelandic whaling-linked companies here.

Transport and shipment of whale products

Numerous airlines have committed not to transport whale products, including Air Malta, Crossair Hauptsitz (Switzerland), Czech Airlines, British Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa (Germany), KLM (Dutch), Austrian Airlines, LOT (Poland), Swissair, Tyrolean Airways (Austrian), Air 2000 (British), Air Europa Lineas Aereas S.A. (Balearic Islands), Britainnia, Spanair, Sterling European (Denmark), Finnair, Iran Air, Air France, Sabena (Belgium), Maleu (Hungry), and Onur Air (Turkey).

On February 15, 2016, the Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (OOCL) became the latest marine cargo shipping company to state that it would no longer transport whale products. OOCL joins CMA-CGM, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, and Maersk in refusing to transport whale meat.

Eimskip: Transporting Products for HVALUR and HB Grandi

Icelandic shipping company, Eimskipafélag Íslands (a.k.a. The Icelandic Steamship Company, or Eimskip) has yet to make a public commitment not to ship whale products, although in a meeting with Don't Buy representatives in March 2016, company executives indicated that they would consider doing so.

Multiple investigations have documented Eimskip-labeled trucks moving containers of whale meat between locations owned by Hvalur, as well as transporting whale meat in 2013 and 2014 from the Hvalur-owned whaling station to a processing facility owned by HB Grandi, Eignarhaldsfélagið ÞÞÞ ehf., the company towing the container of whale meat bearing Norðanfiskur advertising, is a minor shareholder in both HB Grandi and Eimskip. Eimskip officials indicated that they do not control the transport decisions of ÞÞÞ ehf.

Eimskip has shipped whale meat internationally; in 2013 an Eimskip-operated vessel, the Westerkade, carried whale meat from Hvalur to the Canadian port of Halifax. In their meeting with our coalition, Eimskip stated that it has not been involved in any further overseas shipments of whale products.

Two American companies, Yucaipa American Alliance Fund II and Yucaipa American Fund (Parallel), hold more than 25 percent of the shares in Eimskip. Mr. Richard d'Abo, identifed as a Yucaipa "transaction partner," is chairman of the Eimskip board of directors.

What You Can Do to Help

Please write to Eimskip´s Chair, Mr. d'Abo, to politely ask the company to make a public commitment not to transport whale products by land or sea.

Mr. Richard d'Abo
Eimskipafélag Íslands (Eimskip)
468 Commercial Street Portland, ME 04101

Photo of the don't buy from Icelandic whalers ad on a bus in BostonWhat's being done to stop imports of Iceland fish products linked to whaling?

In Europe and North America, conservation and animal protection NGOs have been encouraging the public not to buy fish from whalers, putting pressure on fish suppliers and retailers to ensure they do not source from Icelandic companies linked to whaling.

Our coalition has written to dozens of companies asking them to confirm that they oppose commercial whaling, and that they do not buy seafood from HB Grandi and its associated companies. For a full list of the letters sent, please click here.

In addition, coalition members have attended several seafood shows in the United States and Europe, raising our concerns about Icelandic whaling and HB Grandi's links to the Hvalur hf whaling company. We've taken out advertising on the Boston public transit system, and on telephone kiosks in New York City, to raise awareness of the issue. The coalition ran a two-week advertising campaign on Alaska Dispatch News to coincide with the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER); the ad protested the transit of 1,800 metric tons of endangered Icelandic fin whale products through Russia's Arctic sea routes.

We are also working with partner conservation organizations in Europe, helping with their campaign to urge major European seafood buyers to support efforts to stop Icelandic whaling.

The Don't Buy from Icelandic Whalers Coalition would like to thank the companies for their help in trying to end commercial whaling in Iceland, you can see a list of those companies here.

We are grateful for the positive responses thus far, but still need your help securing additional answers to our request.

what you can do

Coalition Partners


A number of animal welfare and conservation groups have partnered to present this information. All are non-governmental organizations working to end the commercial slaughter of whales.

Animal Welfare Institute CarbonFix Foundation Cetacean Soceity International Dolphin Connection 
Environmental Investigation Agency GreenpeaceInternational Marine Mammal Project 
Natural Resources Defense Council Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program OceanCare Origami Whales Project 
The Whaleman Foundation Whale and Dolphin Conservation World Animal Protection