Iceland says it killed 184 whales this year

REYKJAVIK (AFP) - Iceland announced on Wednesday (Sept 30) that 155 fin whales and 29 minke whales were killed in its hunting season this year, in defiance of calls to end the practice.

These figures, provided by the ministry of agriculture and fisheries, were within the government's 2015 hunting quotas of 171 fin whales, the second largest animal after blue whales, and 275 of the smaller minke whales.

Iceland and Norway are the only nations that openly defy the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on hunting whales.

Japan has used a legal loophole in the ban that allows it to continue hunting the animals in order to gather scientific data - but it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.

Iceland's continued whaling has drawn criticism from several other countries as well as from environmental and animal groups.

Last year the United States threatened Iceland with economic sanctions.

In June campaign group Avaaz launched an online petition calling on Iceland to stop whaling that attracted more than a million signatures - three times the country's population.

The demand for whale meat is down in Iceland as well as in Japan, which remains Iceland's main export market for the product.

Icelandic whalers caught 137 fin whales and 24 minkes in 2014, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group.

According to Icelandic media, the Icelandic whaling body Hvalur continues the hunt as a matter of principle, despite millions of euros of losses incurred each year.

It subsidises the industry thanks to its involvement in other fisheries activities.