Before I begin let me apologize for lack of good photo or video to accompany this post! Don't worry, we're dropping coins in the piggy bank for a gopro.
Iceland still supports a commercial whaling industry.
Crazy, right? It's one of only 3 countries that still do (Norway and Japan are the others). And, sadly, tourism is supporting its continuation with tourists consuming about 40% of whale meat harvested.
Icelanders remain split on the issue. While it has long been considered a cruel and outdated industry (it can take hours for a whale to die by harpoon), it remains intact in Iceland due to tourism and export.
Many restaurants still serve whale meat, and many tourists still consume it. Fortunately, many whale watching tours work to educate the public about the whaling industry.
I went out with Gentle Giants Husavik, and they did not disappoint. They employ a number of marine biologists and students, and focus on research (you can even contribute to it) surrounding whales getting caught in fishing nets and hit by boats.
The tour is open and educational about the horrors of whaling, the rift between whalers and whale watchers, and many other dangers facing whales today.
Allow me to gush for a minute about how great this experience was.
Husavik is the whale watching capital of Iceland (some claim its the whale watching capital of Europe), and a little town more charming than I can only imagine George Clooney to be. It was a little bit out of the way, but I had heard about the great whale watching, and my only regret now is not staying longer. I'll move there if I ever get the chance (temporarily, of course).
Anyway, I sat in my car waffling about spending nearly 100$ on the tour for about forty-five minutes before buying my ticket and wandering down to the dock to check out the boat. Somehow I was there way too early despite having that argument with myself in the car.
The trip itself was cold and wet and wonderful!
About five minutes out into the bay, we saw the first whale - a huge humpback.
I have been gushing about how much I love whales since I was a little kid. But holy crap, I had no freaking idea. I really love whales. So much so that my behavior on the tour might have even been a little bit embarrassing.
With my frozen fingers clutching my wet phone and recording almost every second of the ride, and a verbal "holy shit!" when one of them breached, I could barely contain my giddiness. We saw five humpbacks and, miraculously, a mother blue whale with her calf.
The crew were friendly and helpful, teaching us about many species of whale and the issues facing them. They served hot chocolate as we headed back towards shore, and the captain let me borrow his mittens which weren't that sweaty.
Go enjoy the whales of Iceland - in the water and not on your plate.
I can't recommend this experience enough. Actually, I can't recommend visiting Iceland in general enough. The tour is 3 hours, 90$ USD, and so very worth it! Support Iceland's whale watching industry and join the effort to stop its commercial whaling.
And when you go to a restaurant, don't order the whale!
Now here's a shaky, low quality video for you to enjoy.