Tourism

Whale Watching - Photo by Jonny ZwickSince its inception in 1991, Iceland's whale-watch industry has been steadily growing; today, it is estimated that as many as a quarter of all tourists to Iceland go whale watching. In 2014, more than 118,000 people took a whale-watch tour out of Reykjavík, generating more than 940 million krónur (US$7.1 million/₤4.5 million) in ticket sales and millions more in associated purchases.

Representatives of Iceland's minke and fin whaling industries downplay the potential negative impact of their activities on tourism. However, the goals of the two industries are diametrically opposed. In May of 2015, IceWhale, the Icelandic whale-watch association, issued a statement protesting the start of the 2015 whaling season and raising concerns about the drop in minke whale sightings in whale-watching areas. In the summer of 2015, tourists onboard a whale watch vessel witnessed dead fin whales being dragged back to shore by a whaling vessel, causing an international backlash.

Pro-whaling interests in Iceland would also have tourists believe that eating whale meat is a common cultural experience, and several restaurants offer whale meat to tourists. Yet 97 percent of Icelanders do not eat whale meat on a regular basis, and 75 percent never buy whale meat. As a result, tourists ordering whale meat are far more responsible for helping to keep the whaling industry alive in Iceland than local residents.

For those of you considering traveling to Iceland, we offer the following recommendations: