The Department of the Interior takes action to stop Icelandic whaling

On shore flensing of a fin whale. c. IFAWAfter years of behind-the-scenes negotiating, the United States has finally said ‘enough is enough!’ to Iceland’s whaling industry.

Today the US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a formal certification under the United States’ Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Protective Act against Iceland for its increased commercial whaling practices and international trade in whale products.

Click here to urge the President to take a strong stance against the slaughter of these magnificent whales.

The Certification stands as an official acknowledgement by the United States that Iceland’s current fin whaling practices are diminishing the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

President Obama will now have 60 days to issue a formal response which includes the option to issue economic sanctions against Icelandic companies participating in the trade of whale products.

IFAW has worked diligently to pursue this certification, and was one of the original petitioners for the measure.

In May of last year IFAW held a briefing on Capitol Hill, featuring talks by IFAW experts and Icelandic partners to raise awareness of the threat of ongoing whaling in Iceland. After a two year hiatus, Icelandic whalers killed 134 fin whales this past season.

The endangered fin whale – one of the world’s largest and most threatened marine mammal species – were caught by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf, which is owned by millionaire Kristjan Loftsson.

Although there has been no whaling in Iceland since 2011, Loftsson singlehandedly re-implemented the whale hunt last year, having sent his whaling fleet out in June in order to carry out plans to hunt and kill up to 180 fin whales in the 2013 season. He didn’t reach his goal of 180 whales killed, but Loftsson’s take of 134 fin whales is tragic nonetheless

Icelandic hunting of fin whales is carried out solely by Loftsson, sometimes called the “whaling king,” and who in 2010 referred to these intelligent animals as “just another fish.” This works directly against IFAW’s progressive and highly effective work to encourage whale watching as an economic alternative to commercial whaling.  Thanks in part to IFAW’s efforts whale watching is now the biggest tourism industry in Iceland.

Perplexingly, given the value of these live whales to their economy, the Icelandic government continues to support the “whaling king” in his barbaric efforts.  Secretary Jewell’s finding comes at a particularly important time.

In December last year, the Icelandic Minister of Fisheries went ahead and issued a five year quota to allow Mr. Loftsson and his associates to kill 154 fin whales each year from now until 2018. This decision – made right before the holidays without any reference to Icelandic and international criticism of this unnecessary and inhumane trade – demonstrates how embarrassing one lone and stubborn whaler is becoming to Iceland.

The Icelandic rationale for a whale hunt is so absurd that it was even mocked during last Sunday’s Super Bowl, in a T-Mobile commercial featuring ex-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. “We can save the whales!” thundered Tebow from the podium at a mock international peace summit, ending with an unmistakable challenge to the country: “Iceland – eyes here!”

Clearly, the US has had enough of commercial whaling, and it is time for Iceland to stop its whaling industry and begin complying with international regulations intended to help save these amazing whales..

Watch out Iceland: The US is saying “Game on!”


Click here to urge the President to take a strong stance against the slaughter of these magnificent whales.

Click here to learn more about the ongoing work that IFAW is doing to combat commercial whaling.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime