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Groups Work to Stop Iceland's Illegal Whaling

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Posted December 21, 2010

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Today NRDC and other conservation groups filed a petition with the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior to impose trade sanctions against Iceland for its escalation of commercial whaling and trade in whale products in clear defiance of international law.  Click here to read the press release.

Despite the international ban on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986, Iceland’s whaling has dramatically increased in recent years.  Iceland has unilaterally authorized its whalers to slaughter up to 150 fin whales and 150 minke whales every year between 2009 and 2013.  In 2010 alone, Icelandic whalers killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales.  Fin whales are the second largest whale on the planet and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  Iceland’s illegal action not only defies the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but it also flies in the face of the best scientific advice calculated by the IWC Scientific Committee.  IWC scientists concluded that removing more than 46 fin whales from the population per year is unsustainable.

In addition to increasing its slaughter of whales, Iceland is also increasing its trade in whale meat and products.  In 2010 alone, Iceland shipped more than 750 tons of whale meat and products to Japan. 

The United States has issued a powerful statement in response to Iceland’s horrific practice. “The United States strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.  U.S. Commissioner to the IWC Monica Medina also voiced concern: “I am deeply disappointed in Iceland’s actions. Iceland is disregarding the global moratorium on commercial whaling, as well as the global ban on trade in whale meat … send[ing] a clear message that Iceland is not interested in cooperative international conservation of whales.”

We’ve urged the Obama Administration to now follow up these strong statements with direct action.  The Pelly Amendment of the Fishermen’s Protective Act authorizes the President to impose trade sanctions against another country for “diminishing the effectiveness” of conservation agreements: in Iceland’s case, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) – which bans commercial whaling – and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – which prohibits international commercial trade in whale products.

The United States did certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment back in 2004, although it pursued diplomatic solutions rather than trade sanctions at the time.  Given Iceland’s escalation in commercial whaling and trade, however, it is clearly time for more than words.  It is time to put pressure on Iceland’s illegal whaling industry by imposing trade sanctions.  

The Pelly petition identifies several Icelandic companies as potential targets for trade sanctions, including major seafood industry players that are directly tied to Iceland’s whaling industry.

We urge the President to act quickly under the Pelly Amendment and impose trade sanctions against Iceland for its escalation in commercial whaling and trade.

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J.R.Dec 21 2010 03:22 PM

Stop greenwashing hate mongering and the needless demonization of minority food cultures as a crass fundraising exercise.
The whale eating cultures of this world are sustainable and should be left in peace.

This is a heinous old media hate meme that belongs dumped in the seventies.

Whales are food too!

AnimuXDec 21 2010 04:00 PM

I wonder when industry fronts and pro-whaling antagonists will drop the "cultural imperialism" bit.

The facts are that whaling industries globally drove most species of large whales to the brink of extinction and when the public grew to learn more about whales, including how the animals were being decimated world-wide, the "Save the Whales" movement was born.

Iceland's whaling is not traditional. Industrial whaling in Iceland was established by "foreign companies" in the late 1800s.

Iceland's whaling is not sustainable. The industry survives with support from the government and exports the meat of "endangered species" to Japan because the domestic market is poor and shrinking.

There is an internationally established moratorium on commercial whaling and even prior to the ban, Fin whales were endangered and a protection stock.

Iceland's whaling is not necessary for economic prosperity or food security. Industrial whaling is no more traditional than building skyscrapers or bottling water.

False accusations of food culture bias don't change the facts.

J├ęssicaDec 21 2010 07:11 PM


dryDec 21 2010 08:00 PM

Ignorant people are food too!
What the nitwit who first commented doesn't know (among many, many,many other things) is that Iceland's claim that whaling is a cultural prerogative is imagined. In all actuality, the original Icelandic people were really, really bad agrarians. It wasn't until the Danes enslaved them and made them ship hands that they began whaling. Whaling for Iceland is actually a by product of their subjugation by imperialist powers. Iceland saying it needs to kill whales for cultural reasons is like African Americans insisting on continuing to pick cotton by hand.

whaleloverDec 21 2010 09:23 PM

This "AnimuX" person sounds like a Paul Watson mouthpiece.

Whales are food. I don't pretend that I can tell you what you may and may not eat, do I? I tolerate you, why don't you tolerate us?

The facts are that Iceland is conservatively harvesting whales from stocks that are not on "the brink of extinction".

The fact that whalers in the past did over-exploit our naturally renewable whale resources is not a valid reason to suggest that today's whalers should not conduct sustainable exploitation.

The moratorium has no scientific basis, Iceland isn't legally bound by it, and the IWC which refuses to lift the "moratorium" despite it's being mandated to regulate whaling has led to it teetering on the brink of extinction itself anyway. If the IWC isn't going to manage whaling then the IWC isn't working and no longer worth wasting time and resources on.

The stock of fin whales that Iceland is harvesting is not "endangered", and not a "protection stock". On the contrary the IWC's scientific committee has completed Implementation Trials for application of the RMP for this stock. Sustainable whaling is thus possible. The anti-whalers who have overrun the IWC ought to cease and desist before they cause the total downfall of the organization.

AnimuXDec 21 2010 11:23 PM

Once again pro-whaling antagonists and industry fronts attempt to cloud the issue which is most certainly NOT about what you can or can not eat. As a matter of fact, much of the Fin whale meat is destined for Japan rather than Iceland as a result of ever declining demand.

The issue is Iceland's continued campaign against Fin whales that are classified, by the internationally recognized IUCN, as an endangered species GLOBALLY. The false claim that "these Fin whales" are not endangered directly contradicts the international authority on species classification. Regardless, endangered Fin whales are currently protected by the moratorium as well as CITES. Therefore by killing endangered Fin whales Iceland is violating and/or subverting multiple international agreements.

The current total number of endangered Fin whales killed is nearly triple what the maximum number should be, if the IWC allowed a number other than ZERO, according to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce who recently publicly criticized Iceland's whaling industry.

Anyone who wants to understand the total lack of "scientific" basis used for quota determination by countries like Iceland need only read the blog of, former IWC scientist and adviser, Dr. Sidney Holt at:

Help stop Icelandic whaling!

Write to U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke at:

Ask Secretary Locke to certify that Iceland is subverting international whale conservation efforts!

Ask him to advise the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. President to enact sanctions against Icelandic marine products (under the 1971 Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman's Protective Act and 1979 Packwood-Magnuson Amendment to the Fishery Conservation and Management Act) until the commercial slaughter of whales, especially endangered species, is stopped!

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