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Fish buyers: Is your seafood tainted by blood of whales?

BRUSSELS: Animal welfare and conservation groups are advising major seafood buyers attending the 2013 European Seafood Exposition and Seafood Processing Europe Convention in Brussels this week to be aware that there are whalers in their midst, and that the seafood they are considering purchasing may be “tainted by the blood of whales”.

Twenty-five years ago, with whale populations decimated by whaling, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted for a ban on the commercial hunting of whales. Despite this, Iceland, Norway and Japan continue to hunt whales, and more than 37,000 whales have been killed since the moratorium took effect.

Furthermore, in the past decade, Iceland and Norway have exported thousands of metric tons of whale products to Japan, the and elsewhere, in defiance of a ban on international commercial trade in whale products imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Among the exhibitors at the Brussels Expo are several companies that process or sell whale meat or are tied by shareholdings to whaling companies.

Susan Millward, of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), reminds convention participants that: “Public opinion polls in both the US and Europe have shown that more than 80 per cent of the public does not support whaling. Polls are also clear that consumers do not wish to buy fish from companies that are associated with whaling.”

Many major seafood buyers have pledged that they will refrain from purchasing seafood products from companies tied to the whaling industry. For those seafood buyers attending  the Seafood Exposition who have not yet made such a commitment, Taryn Kiekow, attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Marine Mammal Protection Program, urges companies to “keep in mind that by putting money into the pockets of whalers you are helping to keep alive an industry that is both cruel and unnecessary.”

”Our groups will continue to monitor the whaling industry and its ties to the seafood industry, and will transmit such information to the public and to seafood certifiers,” said Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The European Seafood Exposition and Seafood Processing Europe Convention in Brussels runs from April 23-25, 2013 and is expected to attract 25,000 participants from 140 countries.


Notes for editors

1. Norway’s whaling season officially opened on April 1, with a quota for 1,286 minke whales.  The first whaling boat was set to sail on April 21.  The most recent export of whale products from Norway to Japan arrived in Tokyo on April 12.

2. In December of 2010, 20 conservation and animal welfare organisations requested that the United States certify Iceland under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1962 for undermining the effectiveness of both the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

On September 15, 2011, US President Obama issued a memorandum to all Cabinet Secretaries expressing   concern about Iceland’s commercial whaling.  The President stated that “Iceland’s actions threaten the conservation status of an endangered species and undermine multilateral efforts to ensure greater worldwide protection for whales.”

3. A US telephone survey conducted by Market Strategies Inc for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) targeted 1,000 registered US voters in 2007. Sixty per cent of the American public said that they would be willing to avoid purchasing Icelandic seafood and other products as a result of Iceland’s decision to whale; the poll also found that 85 per cent of those polled oppose whaling.  A 2009 YouGov poll of 2,249 people in the UK found that 82 per cent of those queried disagreed with Iceland’s decision to kill whales, while 64 per cent stated that they would avoid buying Icelandic fish, prawns and other products in protest. A  2011 poll conducted by ORC CARAVAN for Greenpeace showed that 83 per cent of Americans believe that the ban on commercial whaling should be strengthened.

4. The following groups are represented on this release: Animal Welfare Institute, Campaign Whale, Cetacean Society International, Environmental Investigation Agency, the International Marine Mammal Program of Earth Island Institute, Humane Society International, Nantucket Marine Mammal Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Care, Pro Wildlife, Save the Whales Again!, Whaleman Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.