Iceland's Whaling Draws International Rebuke

Fin Whale, Photo NOAA.jpg

Last week, diplomats from 11 nations delivered a demarche –a diplomatic letter of protest – to Iceland’s government over its escalation in commercial whaling.   The U.S.-led joint demarche expressed “strong opposition to Iceland’s continuing and increased commercial harvest of whales” as well as its “recent international trade in whale products.”   In particular, the countries are “deeply troubled” by Iceland’s harvest of endangered fin whales.  The demarche notes how Iceland’s harvest and subsequent trade of fin whales does not “meet any market demand or need, and it undermines effective international whale conservation efforts.”   

Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission since 1986.  Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, Iceland has increased its slaughter of minke and endangered fin whales in recent years.  It killed 125 fin whales in 2009 and 148 fin whales in 2010. Fin whales are considered endangered, listed under both the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the IUCN Red List.  

Unlike countries that rely on whale meat for subsistence purposes, Iceland has only a limited domestic market for minke whales and its people traditionally have not eaten fin whales.   Instead, Iceland has increased its whaling hoping to find a profitable market in Japan – whose warehouses are already glutted with thousands of tons of excess whale meat from its own “scientific whaling” program. 

The demarche is a positive step for the whales.  It comes on the heels of a petition filed by NRDC and other groups with the Obama Administration to certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment of the Fishermen’s Protective Act.  (The Pelly Amendment allows the government to impose trade sanctions against another country for undermining conservation agreements.  Click here to read additional details.)   

Given Iceland’s escalation of commercial whaling and trade in whale products in violation of international law, now is the time for strong action.  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 Obama Administration to follow up its strong demarche and impose hard-hitting trade sanctions against Icelandic seafood companies directly tied to Iceland’s illegal whaling.  Click here to send a message supporting sanctions. 

Photo credit: NOAA