President Barack Obama announces action against Iceland over its whale meat trade
United States President Barack Obama has announced a raft of measures against Iceland over its continued slaughter of whales and trade in their meat.
The US Government had announced on February 6 that it was invoking the Pelly Amendment which certifies Iceland for undermining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) because of its whaling activities and resulting whale meat trade.
The measures set by the Obama Administration came a few days ahead of the 60-day deadline for action on April 7.
Measures include directing US agencies to raise concerns about Iceland’s commercial whaling and trade in fin whale meat and products in any meetings with Icelandic officials and in appropriate CITES venues. They require US officials to re-examine bilateral cooperation projects with Iceland in light of the fin whaling and trade. Senior US Government officials must also evaluate any visits to Iceland in light of Iceland’s resumption of fin whaling.
The US Government will continue to monitor the companies that engage in whaling and trade in fin whale and all relevant agencies are required to report back to the President in six months on the status of whaling in that country and continue to explore options for additional measures.
This is another major blow for those still trying to kill whales in the face of international opposition. The US measures come just days after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Japan’s whaling programme in the Antarctic was illegal and must stop.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) commended the President for his actions and IFAW’s US Campaigns Director Beth Allgood said: “We are very pleased that President Obama has taken such strong action against Iceland and its dying whale meat industry which so much of the world abhors.”
President Obama has also charged relevant agencies with encouraging Iceland to develop and expand measures that increase economic opportunities for the non-lethal use of whales in Iceland, such as responsible whale watching activities and educational and scientific research activities that contribute to the conservation of whales, a move that IFAW fully supports.
Just a few days ahead of President Obama’s announcement, IFAW learned that Iceland’s lone whaling crusader Kristjan Loftsson’s stockpile of fin whale meat, an estimated 2,000 tonnes, was being loaded onto a cargo vessel bound for Japan. The freezer ship has since left port.
Allgood added: “Rather than allow one stubborn whaler to harpoon Iceland’s interests, the Icelandic government should be promoting whale watching, not whale killing, as the way forward.”
The US has previously certified Iceland for undermining the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by setting its own commercial whaling quotas outside of the IWC.
In recent years, Loftsson has regularly exported relatively small amounts of fin whale meat to his own company in Japan, but has yet to find much demand for the meat on the Japanese market.
Last summer both ports and carriers in Europe publicly rejected the whale meat trade when containers opened at ports in Rotterdam and Hamburg were returned to Iceland and met with public protests at the killing of whales for products such as dog food.
In December last year, the Icelandic government issued new catch limits which would allow 229 minke whales and 154 endangered fin whales to be harpooned each year for the next five years. Fin whales are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
IFAW has worked alongside Icelandic whale watch operators for many years to promote whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling. Iceland is one of Europe’s top destinations for whale watching, attracting 175,000 whale watchers annually.
Notes to Editors –
A total of 280 fin whales were killed in Iceland’s waters between 2006 and 2010. Loftsson then halted his fin whaling operation for two years, citing difficulties in trading the meat with Japan following its tsunami tragedy as a reason for cancelling the hunt in 2011 and 2012. He resumed the slaughter last year with 134 fin whales killed.
Minke whaling in Iceland, which has focussed on a limited domestic and tourism market, is also dwindling. In 2012, 52 minke whales were killed, despite a catch limit of 216 and last year the figure dropped to 36.
Recent polling by IFAW revealed a mere 3% of Icelanders claim to eat whale meat regularly. A sample size of 1,450 people aged 18 and over from across Iceland was surveyed via the Internet on attitudes towards whale hunting. The survey was carried out by Capacent Gallup during October 2013.
For the last four years, IFAW, along with Icewhale, the Association of Icelandic whale watch operators, has run a successful ‘Meet Us Don’t Eat Us’ campaign in Iceland, encouraging tourists visiting the country to support responsible whale watching but to avoid sampling whale meat. In addition, a Whale Friendly Restaurants scheme promotes restaurants which pledge not to serve whale meat. Almost 50% of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik have so far signed up and display a Whale Friendly logo to tourists.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.