If one can say anything about recent arguments of the Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners (FIFVO) in favour of whaling, it is but propaganda which misquotes scientific research, which are taken out of its natural context. A good example is a news item on FIFVO’s website on 5 March under the headline: “The minke whale eats as much as 300 thousand tons of cod and haddock annually.” Morgunbladid makes it worse in its report 6 March by increasing the figure by 100 thousand tons more than FIFVO had calculated and according to Frettabladid, the minke predation on cod and haddock is the main reason for the hunt.
In the above mentioned story it is stated that minkes consume 300 thousand tons of cod and haddock is in accordance with results of MRI research. This is wrong. No such results have been introduced by the Institute and MRI whale experts did correct this failure by FIFVO in Morgunbladid, Wednesday 11 March. The corrections deserves praise and important in such a controversial and important matter. Not only is FIFVO very liberal in its attitudes towards the data from the MRI, but the calculations are wrong and presented out of context. Or, what is the use of know how much one single species of mammals, out of hundreds of thousand animals in the ocean ecosystem around Iceland, eats compared to harvested catch of fish? Apparently, nothing at all. On the other hand, this type of argumentation can cause misunderstandings and, to the public and the outside world, it gives a wrong idea of the ocean ecosystem.
In the context of the ecosystem
Why doesn’t the FIFVO omit the biological fact, which can be calculated from the date provided by the MRI, that smokkfiskar and other crustaceans eat many times more fish and other species animals than all species of whales around Iceland in total? And what about the fish consumption by commercial species and non-commercial species of fish? It has been estimated that they eat at least three times as more of fish and other type of food than all whales in Icelandic waters. What about FIFVO’s thirst for truth when it comes to this? By similar argument as used by the most eager whalers use regarding how much fish the whales eat, it is more appropriate to maintain that crustaceans and fish are eating too much from the whales! Yet, it isn’t that simple. Especially not, as many seam to believe, that fish catch would increase relative to catch of whales and their consumption of fish. The main explanation for this is the complicated web of life in the ocean. The interaction, for example, that predation on fish by minke whales can lead to increased cod catch. A greater number of minke whales could even lead to more catch of fish as the minkes eat species which also predate on the cod. Under certain circumstances the consumption of cod by minkes could also have a culling effect on the cod stock and, hence, the cod stock will grow faster.
Then it is worth considering the numbers given by the FIFVO and the newspapers about the cod consumption by minkes of 140 – 240 thousand tons in the context of the so-called MRI “multi-species-model”. The model, MRI scientists agree, is super simple and of little use when recommending catch limits, is used to estimate the long term harvest of cod in interaction with minke whales, fin whales, humpbacks, capelin, cod and shrimp. One of the main conclusions is that, within ten years, catch of cod could be 20% less, given that whale stocks are allowed to grow to maximum size. Compared to a stable cod stock of 250 – 350 thousand tons, this means that the catch could diminish by 50 – 70 thousand tons. And, please note, these are maximum figures, the upper limit for possible predation impact of whales on the cod stock. Given minimum figures, that are the lowest limit, the impact could be positive. This must be kept in mind when whales are made out be the scapegoats.