Iceland Stops Whaling for Wrong Reason

A country blows an opportunity for a public relations coup.

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland—I had just returned from the wind-battered, historic seaside village of Stokkseyri on the north Atlantic when news broke that Iceland has agreed to stop its whale hunt. Why? Because of lack of demand for whale meat.

Right move, wrong reason. Iceland moved almost a year ago to end its ban on commercial whaling. The decision by the tiny nation, the size of Ohio and built on a seemingly endless stream of lava rock, caused an international environmental conflagration much more powerful than the force of its infamous geyser, Strokkur. Our Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park goes off a mere once an hour. Strokkur explodes reliably more than 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes.

The reversal of the decision may placate some international concern over the endangered fin and minke species (Japan continues to hunt whales mercilessly and in violation of international will). But from a public relations and international media perspective, it will go almost completely unnoticed.

Poor thinking, Iceland. This decision to stop commercial whale hunting amounts to an unnoticed trade of environmental do-goodism for last year's oceans of negative publicity (in announcing the decision to lift the whale-hunting ban).

One would think a country increasingly reliant on ecotourism and one that sells itself as among the most pristine, undeveloped travel destinations in Europe would have better sense than to blow such a powerful public relations opportunity. A more artfully worded reason to have stopped commercial whaling (out of concern for endangered species, for example) would have been worthy of international praise.