The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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In the North Atlantic, the fin whale falls under the management of two international management organisations, NAMMCO and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for those countries that are members.

Fin whaling for commercial purposes was discontinued in 1986, as a result of the temporary moratorium on commercial whaling instituted by the IWC. In the period 1986-1989, Iceland continued taking a total 292 fin whales for scientific research.

Greenland continued to hunt fin whales under “aboriginal subsistence whaling” quotas, which do not fall under the moratorium.

Iceland withdrew from the IWC in 1992 and rejoined in 2002 with a reservation against the moratorium. Iceland is therefore not bound by the moratorium and resumed harvesting fin whales in 2006.


fin whale kafIMG 3779

Photo: Kjell Arne Fagerheim, Institute of Marine Research, Norway


Management measures in NAMMCO member countries

The last updated list of laws and regulation in NAMMCO countries regarding hunting of marine mammals (a.o. protection and hunting methods) can be found in NAMMCO Annual Report 2009 (NAMMCO 2010a).

Faroe Islands- Protected

The Ministry of Fisheries is responsible for the administration of whaling regulations and for coordinating Faroese participation in international scientific and conservation bodies which deal with the management of whale stocks (

Under Faroese legislation all species of whales are protected with the exception of five species: pilot whales, white-beaked and white-sided dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises (Executive order (Kunngerd) nr. 19, 01-03-1996). The fin whale is therefore protected and cannot been hunted in Faroese waters.

Greenland - Regulated Hunting

Hunting is regulated and administered by the Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture (Greenland 2012), and supervised by the Fisheries Licence Control Authority. Some of the regulations are general to hunting (Home Rule Act no. 12, 29-10-1999, and later amendments in 2001, 2003 and 2008), animal welfare (Home Rule Act no. 25, 18-12-2003), nature protection (Home Rule Act no. 29, 18-12-2003), hunting permits (Executive order nr. 20, 27-12-2003), while others address specifically the hunting of large whales, with as the latest the executive orders nr.11 and 12 both from July 16, 2010. In addition to Greenland Government rules there may also be additional rules set by the municipality.

There is no private ownership of land, sea or living resources. Hunting grounds and game animals are open to harvest and use by Greenlandic citizens, subject to hunting licenses. However, only persons with a full-time occupational hunting license are allowed to hunt large whales, and there are a number of important conditions and limitations, including those related to catch limits, methods of hunting, training and reporting.

Locally, a team of wildlife officers/wardens control hunting and fishing activities, making sure that conservation measures of protected areas and species are observed, and passing on information to the local community. The wildlife officers work in close cooperation with the municipalities, the police, and the Government of Greenland.

The IWC determines the catch quotas for all three large whale species taken in Greenland. The quota year for fin whales goes from January 1 to December 31.

Iceland - Regulated Hunting

Whaling is under the authority of the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. Catch limits are based on advice from the Marine Research Institute (MRI), on the principle of sustainability and precautionary approach. For further detail see here.

The advice from the MRI is based on scientific assessments conducted within the Scientific Committees of NAMMCO and the IWC. Catch limits for whales (fin and common minke) used to be set annually, but in 2009, they were set for a 5-year period, with an annual quota of 154 fin whales.

Norway - Protected

Whaling is under the authority of the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs.

Norway registered an objection to the International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling and is thus not bound by it. However Norway stopped hunting fin whales in 1971 and has not resumed.

Nowadays, common minke whales are the only legally hunted whale species and fin whales are therefore protected under Norwegian laws.