BOSTON (March 3, 2016) — Members of the “Don’t Buy from Icelandic Whalers” coalition have affirmed that their campaign will continue until Iceland permanently ends commercial whaling and international trading of whale products, despite breaking news that Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf is suspending its summer hunt of endangered fin whales. The coalition, which encourages supermarket and food service representatives to avoid purchasing seafood from Icelandic companies tied to whaling, will promote its agenda during the upcoming Boston-hosted Seafood Expo North America (SENA) beginning Sunday, March 6.
“Endangered fin whales will receive a temporary reprieve from Iceland’s harpoons this summer, but we urge companies to use their buying power to ensure Iceland stops killing whales permanently,” said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
As part of its campaign, the coalition recently approached major food retailers, asking them to check that their seafood products are not sourced from companies linked to Icelandic whaling. In response, popular retail chain Wegmans and seafood supplier Iceland Seafood International (ISI) provided written statements confirming they do not source from Icelandic whaling linked companies. The coalition also contacted other entities, including Boston-area restaurant chains Legal Sea Foods and Wahlburgers, and hopes to add them to its list of companies supporting efforts to stop Icelandic whaling. A report released this week by Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs highlights challenges experienced by Icelandic fish exporters and their overseas partners due to Iceland’s killing of whales, indicating that efforts to persuade companies to not purchase seafood linked to Icelandic whaling are gaining attention and causing concern.
“Our coalition commends Wegmans, ISI, High Liner, and Ahold-USA, which have all provided written confirmation that they do not buy from Icelandic whalers,” said Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “By issuing these statements, these businesses are communicating through their purchasing choices that commercial whaling is unacceptable.”
“Whaling is an outdated, inhumane practice that has no place in today’s oceans,” stated Elizabeth Hogan, campaign manager for Oceans & Wildlife at World Animal Protection. “We urge all food retailers to ensure that the seafood they source comes exclusively from companies that do not engage in whaling. By doing so, they can send a powerful message to the world that whaling is not only cruel, but needless.”
The coalition has sponsored advertisements on the website and print editions of Natural Awakenings, a Boston-based health and lifestyle publication. The advertisements feature a stylized image of a whale and ask audiences, “Do you know who caught your seafood?” Coalition members will also distribute complimentary T-shirts, which feature the signature stylized whale, to the public over the course of SENA 2016.
Iceland is one of only three nations that continue to engage in commercial whaling and international trade in whale products, in defiance of international law. Last year, the Hvalur company killed 155 endangered fin whales, the highest number since the commercial whaling moratorium took effect. Hvalur is responsible for the deaths of more than 700 endangered fin whales since 2006 and has shipped over 7,200 metric tons of fin whale products to Japan. Kristján Loftsson, Hvalur’s multi-millionaire executive director, is also chairman of the board of Iceland’s leading seafood company HB Grandi, which is exhibiting at SENA 2016.
Although Hvalur’s planned suspension of its summer fin whale hunt is positive news for whales, the coalition pledges that it will continue to monitor the situation. Whaling has been suspended in Iceland in the past (also attributed to factors in Japan), only to later resume. The coalition notes, as well, that—while hunting of fin whales may be cancelled—the killing of smaller whales, such as minke whales, will continue.
“Endangered fin whales may be safe this season, but it's not the first time a hunt has been canceled, only to continue the following year,” stated Amy Zets, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) policy analyst. “Companies and consumers need to take a firm stand against fish tied to Icelandic whaling to help bring this needless killing and trade to a permanent halt.”
"Iceland's decision not to take endangered fin whales should not be a temporary ploy to pressure Japan into relaxing its testing methods,” said Scott Leonard, Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program (NMMCP). “Nor should it be about profitability. It should be based on the recognition that whales’ lives have intrinsic value.”
“Killing endangered fin whales for profit makes no sense in the 21st century,” said Phil Kline, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. “We don't want commercial whalers to profit from Americans’ seafood choices."
“We will utilize all available tools, including market forces and consumer buying power to end commercial whaling in Iceland,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America (WDC-NA). “Commercial whaling is cruel, unprofitable, and bad for our climate. Whaling is no more sustainable than deforestation in the Amazon."
“The consumption of seafood is already questionable from a sustainability point of view,” said Sigrid Lueber, OceanCare president. “Consuming seafood from a supplier that has clear ties to whaling is unacceptable. Informed choices are therefore crucial.”
The coalition website, www.DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com, identifies which North American businesses purchase seafood from companies linked to Hvalur, and provides information for consumers about how to take action against Icelandic whaling. The coalition is comprised of several organizations, including AWI, CarbonFix International, Cetacean Society International, Dolphin Connection, EIA, Greenpeace USA, the International Marine Mammal Program of the Earth Island Institute, NMMCP, NRDC, OceanCare, WDC-NA, the Whaleman Foundation and World Animal Protection.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com.