Iceland to Hunt Fin Whales Again--Call on the Obama Administration to Impose Sanctions

Endangered fin whales may once again face Iceland’s harpoons. According to media reports, Iceland will resume fin whale hunting next month after a two year hiatus – and is set to kill up to 184 endangered fin whales. Fin whales are the world’s second largest animal and are listed as an endangered species.

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NRDC joins other animal welfare and conservation groups calling on the Obama Administration to impose targeted economic sanctions against Iceland.

Iceland has flouted international laws since 2003 by killing 496 minke whales and 280 endangered fin whales and exporting over 2,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling. In 2009, Iceland dramatically increased its self-allocated fin whale quota to 150 animals a year – more than three times the catch limit that the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee (the world’s foremost experts on whales) considers sustainable for the species’ survival.

NRDC and eighteen other NGOs responded to Iceland’s renegade whaling in December 2010 by filing 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 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 is about to start fin whaling again.

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.  With Iceland’s resumption of fin whaling on the imminent horizon, it’s clear that diplomacy has failed. 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.

We urge the Obama administration to impose targeted trade sanctions against those companies. Because it’s clear that Iceland is not going to stop slaughtering whales unless they’re compelled to do so.  

Photo credit: NOAA

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

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

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