Iceland, one of the only countries that still hunts whales commercially together with Norway and Japan, plans to end whaling from 2024 as demand dwindles, the fisheries minister said today.

"There are few justifications to authorise the whale hunt beyond 2024" when current quotas expire, Svandis Svavarsdottir, a member of the Left Green party, wrote in Morgunbladid newspaper.

"There is little proof that there is any economic advantage to this activity," she said.

Iceland's current annual quotas for 2019-2023 allow for the hunting of 209 fin whales - the planet's second-largest species after the blue whale - and 217 minke whales, one of the smallest species.

But for the past three years, the two main licence holders have suspended their whale hunts, and one of them hung up its harpoons for good in 2020.

Minke whale
Minke whales are one of the smallest species of whale

Only one whale has been killed in the past three years, a Minke whale in 2021.

Demand for Icelandic whale meat has decreased dramatically since Japan - the main market for whale meat - returned to commercial whaling in 2019 after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The hunt had also become too expensive after a no-fishing coastal zone was extended, requiring whalers to go even further offshore.

Additionally, safety requirements for imported meat were more stringent than for local products, rendering Icelandic exports more difficult.

Social distancing restrictions to combat the coronavirus pandemic also meant Icelandic whale meat processing plants were unable to carry out their tasks.

In Iceland's last full season in 2018, 146 fin whales and six Minke whales were killed.

Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2003 despite a 1986 IWC moratorium, which it had opposed.