Asbjorn Bjorgvinsson (Ice Whale)
Asbjorn Bjorgvinsson's promotion of ecotourism and of the whale watching industry in Iceland has resulted in significant social, educational, economic and political benefits to Iceland.
Iceland has long played a pivotal role in the controversial whaling industry. Whale watching, a major influence against commercial whaling, has grown by 10.3% every year since 1991, and generates more than US$ 600 million per year. As a result, whale watching has changed the attitudes of millions of people toward the environment.
In 1995, Bjorgvinsson helped set up three whale watching companies, organized an international workshop, and produced the first annual report on the Icelandic industry, which has grown by as much as 50% per year. His reports have had a significant political impact in Iceland, serving to counter the commercial lobby to reestablish whaling and to have Iceland rejoin the International Whaling Commission.
In 1997, Bjorgvinsson left his engineering consulting position in Reykjavik, to establish the Jusavik Whale Center - the first and only whale information center in Iceland. Visitors to his not-for-profit Center doubled in 1999 and have helped Husavik become the center of whale watching in Iceland.
Bjorgvinsson's public awareness initiatives have produced a generation of Icelanders who are respectful of the marine environment. An influential media personality, Bjorgvinsson has helped make Iceland the destination of choice for knowledgeable ecotourists. He recently received the Netherlands' Knight of the Golden Ark award.