Groups Work to Stop Iceland's Illegal Whaling

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.