Iceland encouraged to change whale policy

20 Sep 2011
Minke whale

Minke whale

Last week, in a report to Congress, the US President concurred with the Secretary of Commerce's recommendations and directed federal agencies to take actions to encourage Iceland to change its whaling policy.

In July, then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, in line with requirements under the Pelly Amendment of the Fishermen’s Protective Act, issued a certification stating that Iceland’s policy of permitting its nationals to engage in commercial whaling and export of endangered fin whale meat is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission conservation program.

“Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable,” said Monica Medina, US commissioner for the IWC. “The actions the Obama Administration is now taking are designed to support the conservation of the world’s whale populations and convince Iceland to stop hunting whales.”

In 2004, the Commerce Department certified Iceland as a country that is undermining the effectiveness of the IWC through its lethal scientific research whaling. In 2006, the Commerce Department retained Iceland’s certification for its commercial whaling. Secretary Locke’s new certification this year recommended that the President direct US officials and agencies to undertake a number of stronger diplomatic actions in response to Iceland’s commercial whaling activities, and evaluate further potential responses to Iceland’s harvest of whales outside of IWC control.

The Department of Commerce has said it will immediately begin to implement the President’s directives and continue to examine other options for responding to Iceland’s whaling practices.

However, Jón Bjarnason, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of Iceland, has said that there is no legal or scientific justification for actions to be taken by the US due to Icelandic whaling activities.

He says that Iceland’s whaling activities are fully lawful and its international trade in whale products is in accordance with its international obligations. He also says that there can be no doubt that Icelandic whaling for minke whales and fin whales is sustainable and based on best scientific information.

“The US authorities are not consistent when they criticise Iceland for its fin whale hunting on the one hand and ask for the support of Iceland and other member countries of the International Whaling Commission for their bowhead quota off Alaska on the other hand. Scientific information clearly shows that the Icelandic fin whale hunting is no less sustainable than the US bowhead whaling”, said Mr Bjarnason.

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