New pressure on Iceland over whaling –

New pressure on Iceland over whaling Published:  10 January, 2011

PRESSURE from the United States conservation lobby is mounting on Iceland to abandon is whaling policy – or face the risk of trade sanctions.

This time Reykjavik may sit up and listen because North America is a key market for Icelandic cod and haddock exports. Around 19 conservation and animal welfare groups, which are said to represent tens of millions of US citizens, have just called on the US Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to impose trade sanctions against Iceland.

A petition filed by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society on behalf of the ‘Whales Need US’ coalition and Species Survival Network, urged Secretaries Gary Locke and Ken Salazar to invoke US conservation legislation known as the Pelly Amendment against Iceland, a press release states.

In November Gary Locke wrote to Icelandic Minister of Fisheries Jón Bjarnason, criticizing Iceland’s whaling practices. In reaction to the letter, Bjarnason said he is prepared to exchange opinions with the American government on the matter. The Pelly Amendment authorises the president to impose trade sanctions against another country for “diminishing the effectiveness” of conservation agreements.

According to the anti-whaling campaigners, in Iceland’s case, that is the violation of the agreement with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which bans commercial whaling, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which prohibits international commercial trade in whale products. Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, catching 148 fin whales and more than 80 minkes in the 2010 whaling season.

Iceland’s export of whale products has also increased; in 2010, Iceland exported more than 800 tons of whale meat, blubber and oil to Japan, Norway and the Faroe Islands and made illegal shipments of whale products to Latvia and Belarus, the anti-whalers claim. They state that the Obama administration is taking a fresh look at Iceland’s renegade whaling and trade, indicating recently that it is “evaluating potential responses”.

According to reports, the conservation and welfare groups have identified specific Icelandic companies as potential targets for trade sanctions; these include major seafood industry players that are directly tied to Iceland’s whaling industry.

The  Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners said that Iceland’s approach to whaling was guided by responsibility and sustainability. The fin whales caught in recent years were not an endangered species, contrary to what is repeatedly being implied. Annual catch figures of fin and minke whales are less than one per cent of the estimated stock size, it added.