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Iceland Calls Off Endangered Whale Hunt ... But For How Long?

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This week, Iceland's biggest whaling company announced it was calling off this year's hunt, sparing the lives of around 150 fin whales. Many have praised the decision as a major victory for the endangered marine mammals, but at least one animal advocate thinks it's still too soon to celebrate.

"In the short term, this is great news," said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), in a statement. "But it's not necessarily the end of the hunt."

On Thursday, Hvalur CEO Kristján Loftsson told reporters his company would hunt no whales this year, citing "outdated" food regulations in Japan, the world's primary market for whale meat. According to Perry, that rationale might hint at a darker motive at play.

"EIA would not be surprised if this was just a cynical attempt to force Japan to lower its food safety standards," said Perry. "The hunt was also postponed in 2011 but resumed in 2013 with ever increasing volumes of whale meat being exported to Japan."

Indeed, Loftsson recently pledged to resume whaling if circumstances changed, telling TakePart that if Japanese officials "change their attitude, we'll start again. But if they don't, we will not do anything."

If Japan does lower its safety standards, the brutal business that's brought $60 million to Loftsson's company since 2010 could become even more lucrative - making the world even more dangerous for fin whales.

Of course, the same market forces that have kept whaling alive in the 21st century could be used to end it once and for all. To learn more about how to financially punish countries that kill whales, visit the Animal Welfare Institute's website here.