The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org), called on the Icelandic government to heed the international criticism and support responsible whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
The U.S.-led joint demarche, also signed by Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, among others, states the governments’ “strong opposition to Iceland’s continued and increasing commercial harvest of whales,” as well as its recent international trade in whale products, and also states “we are deeply troubled by Iceland’s harvest of 125 fin whales in 2009 and 148 fin whales in 2010.”
In November 2010 the U.S. Department of Commerce publicly issued a letter it had sent to the Icelandic government regarding its whaling activities, in which it warned that all options were on the table for action against Iceland on the issue.
Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Program, said, “Beyond killing hundreds of endangered whales its own people refuse to eat, the Government of Iceland is harpooning its own economic interests. We are encouraged by growing Icelandic opposition to this cruel and wasteful industry. We welcome the actions now being taken by the U.S. and other countries urging Iceland to re-join the emerging global consensus for whale conservation in the 21st century.”
Last season Iceland’s whalers slaughtered more than 200 whales. Iceland has only a limited domestic market for minke whale meat and traditionally Icelanders have not eaten fin whales, so these are killed in the hope of finding a market in Japan which has largely failed to materialize.
Whale watching, by contrast, is financially lucrative and one of the country’s most popular tourist activities, generating almost £5m a year for coastal communities.
The Icelandic government has not yet revealed any details of planned whaling or catch limits for 2011.