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Iceland exports fin whale meat as sanction threat looms

WASHINGTON DC: Environmental and welfare groups today revealed that Iceland’s commercial whaling operation exported a further 133 tonnes of whale products from endangered fin whales in July, despite the pending threat of US trade sanctions for violating conservation agreements protecting the creatures.

The whale meat, worth an estimated US$1.2 million, was exported to Japan in July 2011 even as the US administration announced that Iceland was defying the global ban on commercial whaling.

EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry said: “This is yet another example of Iceland’s contempt for international laws that protect endangered whales. The Icelandic fin whale kill is unsustainable and illegal and the whaling company at the center of these activities is closely tied to a global seafood corporation that exports large amounts of fish to the US and European markets.”

Since 2006, 280 endangered fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet, have been killed by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf, despite the international ban on commercial whaling

On  July 19, US Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified that Iceland was undermining the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by permitting commercial whaling and international trade in endangered fin whale meat. The Commerce Secretary had previously warned the Icelandic Fisheries and Agricultural Ministry in November 2010 that US law required a response to Iceland’s commercial whale killing.

President Obama now has until September 17 to report to Congress on any action he decides to take, including the possibility of sanctions against Icelandic products exported to the US.

Iceland has exported almost 1,400 tonnes of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan, worth about US$18 million, since it began killing fin whales.

As well as the shipments of whale meat and blubber to Japan, Iceland has exported whale products including whale oil to Norway, the Faroes Islands and Latvia, despite a ban on such international trade in products of great whale species by the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said: “This recent export demonstrates the urgent need for President Obama to immediately impose economic measures, including trade sanctions against Iceland.”

Sue Fisher, Policy Director for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said today: “Not only is Iceland abusing two international conservation agreements, it is setting fin whale quotas that are three times higher than sustainable levels, according to the Scientific Committee of the IWC, the world’s foremost authority on whale science.

“US citizens overwhelmingly oppose commercial whaling, and nothing less than economic sanctions will fulfill President Obama’s promise to strengthen the commercial ban on whale hunting.”

For further information, contact:

* Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner, EIA: tel +44 2073547960 or +34 664348821

* Susan Millward, Executive Director, AWI: cell 202 640 9606 or office 202 446 2123

* Sue Fisher, Policy Director, WDCS: cell 503 484 8002


Editors’ Notes:

1. On September 24, “Making a Killing”, a documentary featuring EIA’s investigation into the Icelandic fin whale hunt and trade, will be shown on the Nat Geo Wild Channel.

2. “Renegade Whaling: Iceland’s Creation of an Endangered Species Trade” offers an in-depth look at how Iceland is defying international treaties; read the report here.

3. In 2009, Iceland dramatically increased its fin whale quota to 150 animals a year.

4. In December 2010, as Iceland’s self-allocated whaling quotas and exports reached record levels, 19 US NGOs, representing tens of millions of US citizens, filed a ‘Pelly petition’ pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the US Fisheries Act, urging the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to certify that Iceland is undermining international conservation agreements and calling for the imposition of trade sanctions against fisheries-related businesses linked to Iceland’s whaling company.

5. Secretary Locke’s ‘certification’ triggered a 60-day review period by the President, during which time he may impose economic or trade sanctions.

6. Icelandic export data is available in English here.

7. Japanese import data is available in English here.