by Shilpa Shah
We’d been out for an hour on the Láki Tours boat looking for whales and there was silence. Passengers and crew all scanning the calm fjord waters for tell-tale dorsal fins, or diving gannets feeding off the fish that orcas hunt. It is a silence that feels excited and nervous. Will we be able to see them today? Suddenly Marie’s voice booms – ‘we’re lucky today everyone, we’ve spotted a group of orcas’. There are gasps. Everyone rushes to the side of the boat to see.
I watch a big male and two females slowly cruising along and my eyes brim over with tears at their grace and majesty.
Three boat trips with Láki Tours last winter upgraded my lifelong orca obsession to a whole new level. Since then, I have read everything about orcas that I could find in spare waking moments and they visit my dreams by night. I’m back in Snæfellsnes this year supporting Orca Guardians with the development of outreach and education strategies.
On our way back to harbour we see two solitary Minke whales; their glossy metallic-grey bodies powering discreetly through the calm waters. Their movement is less predictable than the orcas. Marie tells the passengers that Minke whales are still hunted and eaten in Iceland. A 2013 poll found only 3% of Icelanders eat whale meat regularly and support for whaling is decreasing. Minke meat is mostly eaten by gullible tourists who mistakenly believe that they are eating ‘traditionally Icelandic’ cuisine. The ‘Meet Us, don’t Eat Us’ campaign has succeeded in reducing whale meat consumption, but there is still work to be done to stop it completely.
How can you help? Research more whaling – become more knowledgeable and talk to your friends about it. And when you or your friends visit Iceland, refuse to eat at restaurants that serve whale meat. See which restaurants are whale-friendly here (with thanks to Orca Guardian’s partner organisation in Reykjavik, Icewhale).