Don't Buy From Icelandic Whalers

NRDC, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and other groups in the “Whales Need US” coalition recently launched a new campaign called Don’t Buy from Icelandic Whalers

The goal: Put the economic squeeze on Icelandic whaling by shutting off U.S. seafood markets to companies tied to the whaling industry. 

The target: We are urging major U.S. wholesalers and retailers that source Icelandic seafood not to buy fish from specific Icelandic companies – like HB Grandi – which are tied to whaling. 

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HB Grandi is Iceland’s largest seafood company and has long-standing ties to Iceland’s whaling industry. The company is controlled by the whaling and investment company Hvalur hf.  For instance, the Chair of HB Grandi’s  Board, Kristjan Loftsson, is both the CEO and a lead shareholder of Hvalur hf.  Once Hvalur whaling boats kill endangered fin whales, the whale meat is then transported from the Hvalur whaling station to HB Grandi facilities, where it is cut, packaged, boxed and made ready for export to Japan.

In response to the campaign’s letters and inquiries, High Liner Foods – a leading North American seafood company – announced that it would not purchase products sourced from HB Grandi. High Liner Foods affirmed in a statement that the company is “not supportive of any commercial whaling or trade in whale products” and committed not to enter into any new contracts with HB Grandi until that company has “fully divested their involvement and interest in whaling.”

Whole Foods Market also cancelled contracts with a subsidiary of HB Grandi.

And Trader Joe’s issued a strong statement against commercial whaling, pledging also to undertake an audit of its supply chain to ensure it is not sourcing from companies linked to whaling operations in Iceland or elsewhere.

NRDC and others have been calling on the Obama Administration to impose exactly this type of economic punch since 2010, when we and other members of the Whales Need US coalition filed a petition under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Protective Act to impose targeted sanctions against Icelandic companies tied to whaling. In response, the Secretary of Commerce certified Iceland in 2011 for violating the global ban on commercial whaling, and the Secretary of the Interior certified Iceland in 2014 for its trade in endangered fin whales. President Obama imposed diplomatic sanctions against Iceland in both 2011 and 2014.

But any pressure on the Icelandic whaling industry is good news for the whales, which are still in high danger of Iceland’s harpoons.  Iceland killed 35 minke whales and 134 endangered fin whales in 2013 alone, and it announced last December that it would allow commercial whaling to continue for at least the next five years – authorizing up to 770 endangered fin whales to be killed.

This is why we will continue to pressure U.S. companies to ensure that they are not inadvertently supporting Icelandic whaling through their – and, ultimately, our – seafood purchases.  For more information and to see what you can do, visit the coalition website DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com, which provides details of the Icelandic companies that hunt—or are linked to those that hunt—whales and the U.S. companies that may be buying from them.

Image courtesy of the Don't Buy From Icelandic Whalers website.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Senior Policy Analyst, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land and Wildlife Program

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