Underwatertimes.com News Service - October 24, 2006 17:57 EST

Icelandic whalers have caught a second fin whale since the North Atlantic nation resumed commercial whaling a week ago, Icelandic company Hvalur said Tuesday.

The whale was harpooned Monday off Iceland's west coast, Brinna Loftsdottir of Hvalur told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.

Hvalur operates the 10-man whaler Hvalur 9 that over the weekend landed the first fin whale caught in Icelandic waters since the country resumed commercial whaling.

Hvalur managing director Kristjan Loftsson said Monday the whale meat was to be tested for environmental pollutants before being sold, a process that likely would take several months.

The two fin whales caught were part of the commercial quota of nine fin whales announced last week by Fisheries Minister Einar Kristinn Gudfinnsson. The government has also set a quota of 30 minke whales during the whale hunting season that lasts until next August.

Iceland has since 2003 also conducted a scientific whale hunting programme. Of the scientific quota, 39 minke whales remain to be caught.

The Icelandic decision has been criticized by conservation groups and several governments, who fear that the move threatens a two- decade long moratorium on whale hunting.

Japan has, like Iceland, conducted scientific whale hunting under provisions offered by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) while Norway resumed whaling of minke whales, the smallest of the seven great whales, in 1993.

Minke whales are are up to 11 metres long, and can weigh about eight tons.

The fin whale is the second largest of the seven great whales. They are up to 24 metres long, and can weigh between 45 and 64 tons. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has listed the fin whales on its red list of threatened species.