U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified to President Obama that Iceland’s commercial whaling and international trade in fin whale products is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and urged the Government of Iceland to cease permitting commercial whaling.
Iceland killed 273 endangered fin whales in 2009 and 2010. Iceland has not harvested any fin whales so far in 2011, but the government continues to permit whaling and has issued a whale quota for the 2011 season. Iceland has continued to harvest minke whales in 2011. The IWC has in place a global moratorium on commercial whaling.
“Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable,” Locke said. “Iceland’s harvest of whales and export of fin whale meat threaten an endangered species and undermine worldwide efforts to protect whales. It’s critical that the Government of Iceland take immediate action to comply with the moratorium.”
Iceland has significantly increased its whaling activities in recent years and resumed international trade in whale products. Last November, Secretary Locke issued a statement on Iceland’s escalation of its commercial whaling and its resumption of international trade in whale products, stating that the United States strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban, and urges Iceland to cease international trade of whale meat.
In his letter today, Secretary Locke recommended that the President take a number of actions, including:
· Direct relevant U.S. delegations attending meetings with Iceland and senior Administration officials visiting Iceland to raise U.S. concerns regarding commercial whaling by Icelandic companies and seek ways to halt such action;
· Direct Cabinet secretaries to evaluate the appropriateness of visits to Iceland depending on continuation of the current suspension of fin whaling;
· Direct the Department of State to examine Arctic cooperation projects, and where appropriate, link U.S. cooperation to the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy and abiding by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
· Direct the Departments of Commerce and State to consult with other international actors on efforts to end Icelandic commercial whaling and have Iceland abide by IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
· Direct the Department of State to inform the Government of Iceland that the United States will continue to monitor the activities of Icelandic companies that engage in commercial whaling; and
· Direct relevant U.S. agencies to continue to examine other options for responding to continued whaling by Iceland.
Further, the letter directs the relevant Departments and offices to report to the President on their actions within six months, unless Icelandic nationals resume fin whaling prior to that time, in which case immediately upon resumption of fin whaling by Icelandic nationals.
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.”
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.
“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."“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.”