U.S. Declares Iceland in Defiance of Global Commercial Whaling Ban

Conservation and Animal Protection Groups Welcome Action and Demand Sanctions

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2011) – U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke  announced today in a formal declaration that Iceland is undermining the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by hunting whales in defiance of the IWC’s global ban on commercial whaling. As a result, President Obama now has 60 days to decide whether to impose economic measures including trade sanctions against Iceland under conservation legislation known as the “Pelly Amendment.” Conservation and animal welfare groups commend Locke’s declaration and urge the President to pursue sanctions. 

“It’s clear Iceland won’t stop whaling until the world demands it through strong economic pressure,” said Taryn Kiekow of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The U.S. must impose serious sanctions." 

“U.S. citizens overwhelmingly oppose commercial whaling,” said Kitty Block of Humane Society International. “It is both inhumane and unsustainable.” 

The U.S. and other IWC member countries have tried for years to persuade Iceland to end its commercial whaling, which includes hunting of the endangered fin whale – the world’s second largest animal. Although the U.S. has previously deemed Iceland and other whaling nations to be conducting commercial whaling in defiance of the IWC ban, it has never imposed trade sanctions. Following a series of failed negotiating efforts, the Obama Administration may finally choose to take strong action against Iceland.

Kate O’Connell of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said, “President Obama has a unique opportunity to demonstrate U.S. leadership on whaling. The American public expects nothing less.”

“Whales don’t belong to any one nation,” said Leigh Henry of World Wildlife Fund.  “Whale conservation requires global effort and the credibility of the IWC is of the utmost importance if it is to remain effective.”  

In 2009, Iceland dramatically increased its fin whale quota to 150 animals a year – more than three times the catch limit that would be recommended by the IWC’s approved quota calculation method if the commercial whaling moratorium was not in place.  In December 2010, as Iceland’s self-allocated whaling quotas and exports reached record levels, 19 U.S. NGOs, representing tens of millions of U.S. citizens, filed a “Pelly petition” urging the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to certify Iceland pursuant to the Pelly Amendment and encouraging the President to impose trade sanctions against Iceland and specifically against fisheries-related businesses linked to its whaling industry.

Iceland has killed 280 endangered fin whales and more than 200 minke whales since it resumed commercial whaling in 2006. In the last two years alone, it has exported over 1,200 tons of whale, blubber and oil, worth more than $17 million to Japan, as well as additional shipments to Belarus, the Faroe Islands, Latvia and Norway.