U.S. to Iceland: Stop Trading in Endangered Whale Meat

Fin Whale NOAA 2.jpg

Endangered fin whales facing Iceland’s harpoons have a new ally: the United States Department of Interior. Today Interior Secretary Sally Jewell certified to President Obama under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act that Iceland’s international trade in whale meat and products diminishes the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  Click here to read our response to the good news.

After a two year hiatus, Iceland resumed fin whale hunting last year – and allocated itself a quota of 184 fin whales every year for the next five years.  Fin whales are the world’s second largest animal and are listed as an endangered species.

“Just 25 years ago, commercial whaling had nearly driven whales to extinction, but thanks to a global effort to conserve whale stocks and end over-harvesting, several whale species have begun to recover,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a press release. “Iceland’s whaling activities undermine these worldwide efforts to conserve whales.”

NRDC and other animal welfare and conservation groups have been calling on the Obama Administration to impose targeted economic sanctions against Iceland since 2010, when we filed a petition under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Protective Act urging the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to certify and enact sanctions against Iceland.

Former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke responded to our petition in July 2011 by certifying Iceland for its continued slaughter of whales. In a letter to President Obama, he said that “Iceland, by permitting its nationals to engage in commercial whaling and exporting endangered fin whale meat, is diminishing the effectiveness of the IWC conservation program.”

President Obama enacted diplomatic sanctions against Iceland in September 2011, finding that “Iceland's actions threaten the conservation status of an endangered species and undermine multilateral efforts to ensure greater worldwide protection for whales.”

But despite U.S. certification and diplomatic sanctions, Iceland continues to kill fin whales.  In total defiance of international law, it recently announced a new five-year quota for fin whales – beginning with the 2014 whaling season – which will allow it to kill a total of up to 770 fin whales in the next five years. Fin whales are hunted predominately for export to the Japanese market.

The Department of Interior found that more than 1.6 million kilograms of fin whale meat and products were exported from Iceland to Japan from 2008 to 2012. Fin whales are listed in Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits trade for primarily commercial purposes.

According to reports, Japan then turns that endangered whale meat into luxury dog treats. Iceland has also started to use the whale meat in novelty beer.

Led by renowned actor and marine mammal activist Pierce Brosnan, NRDC urged President Obama back in 2011 to impose tough sanctions against Iceland.


Unfortunately, the President responded with diplomatic sanctions that have not deterred Iceland’s renegade whaling.

It’s clear that diplomacy has failed. Secretary Jewell’s certification provides the President with another opportunity to impose meaningful sanctions.  Now is the time for the President to respond with hard-hitting economic sanctions targeting Iceland’s whaling companies – and companies with corporate ties to those whaling companies.

We have identified several Icelandic companies as potential targets for trade sanctions, including major seafood industry players that are directly tied to Iceland’s whaling industry.  And we urge the Obama administration to impose targeted trade sanctions against those companies.


 Photo Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission