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Icelandic Whalers Make First Kill

August 19, 2003

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) _ The crew of a government-commissioned Icelandic whaling vessel made its first kill Monday in the scientific whale hunt being carried out beyond the view of protesting animal welfare groups.

Iceland’s Marine Research Institute announced that the Njordur, one of three ships taking part in a hunt, killed the first of 38 minke whales that are to be taken over the next six weeks. Iceland says the project is for research, but Britain, the United States and several other governments have called it unnecessary.

Scientists plan to study the stomach contents of the mammals. The government says that is necessary to measure their effect on fish stocks such as cod, which are vital to the national economy.

The Njordur, the Sigurbjorg and the Halldor Sigurdsson left ports around Iceland on Sunday, delayed by two days of bad weather.

Johann Sigurjonsson, head of the research institute, told Channel 2 television on Monday that the first kill had been made. It occurred at about 1 p.m. EDT, according to the Web site of the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid.

The crew of the Njordur had said earlier Monday their task was hampered by two pursuing boats, hired by media crews and animal welfare groups.

Icelandic authorities have declined to give any information about the routes the whalers will take and have gone to great lengths to prevent photos of the hunt. They have rejected media requests to monitor the killing of the whales and the vessels are under orders not to fire their harpoons if other vessels are nearby.

The Morgunbladid Web site quoted the Njordur’s captain, Gudmundur Halldorsson, as saying the crew waited until the two boats returned to harbor. Due to the weather, the Njordur will return to the village of Olafsfjordur late Monday and go back to sea Tuesday, Halldorsson was quoted as saying.

The Sigurbjorg has returned to harbor in the Vestman islands, south of Iceland, and the Halldor Sigurdsson is being followed by a boat carrying journalists and will not attempt a kill until the other boat stops its pursuit, according to the crew, Morgunbladid said.

Conservationists have said they want to draw the world’s attention to the hunt. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has leased a boat and the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is on its way to Iceland.

The hunt is the first since Iceland quit whaling in 1989. Iceland carried out research whaling for three years after International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to protect the endangered mammals.

Iceland had initially proposed to kill more animals _ 100 minkes, 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales for each of the next two years _ but scaled back the plan following opposition from members of the International Whaling Commission.

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