REYKJAVIK (AFP) — Iceland's government unveiled Tuesday a steep rise in its disputed commercial whale hunt, a sixfold increase allowing the killing of 150 fin whales and up to 150 minke whales a year.
Iceland, which pulled out of an international whaling moratorium in 2006 after observing it for 16 years, had a quota of nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.
But outgoing Fisheries Minister Einar Gudfinnsson said the government would follow the recommendations of the Marine Research Institute, which suggested a quota of 150 fin whales and 100 to 150 minke whales a year over the next five years.
"I think that whalers will be satisfied by this quota," Gudfinnsson told AFP.
Gudfinnsson is a member of the centre-right Independence Party, whose coalition government with the left-leaning Social Democrats collapsed on Monday following protests over its handling of the economic crisis.
The Social Democrats and Left Greens, who oppose whaling, have been asked by President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson to form a new minority coalition after the one led by Prime Minister Geir Haarde, of the Independence Party, resigned.
Foreign Minister Ingibjoerg Solrun Gisladottir, the Social Democratic leader, had blasted Gudfinnsson in May for authorising whale hunting again this year.
Conservationists blasted the new quota.
"I hope that the minister who will replace Einar (Gudfinnsson) will have the courage to recall this decision," said Arni Finnsson, of the Icelandic Natural Conservation.
Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, although the whale meat is sold for consumption.
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