US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has sent a letter to Icelandic Minister of Fisheries Jón Bjarnason where he criticizes Iceland’s whaling, reasoning that there is no market for whale products and that whaling is therefore unnecessary.
Whaling in Iceland. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
In the letter, Locke said he is hoping for further discussions on whaling with Iceland. “We are prepared to exchange opinions with the American government on this issue and will of course reply to the letter,” Bjarnason told Morgunbladid.
“Both countries emphasize sustainable whaling and in that sense they have common interests. One could say that there is a certain indication in the letter that people want to keep all opportunities open, although the letter is also critical [of Iceland’s whaling],” the minister interpreted.
A press release from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) states that Locke specifically called on Iceland to stop its export of fin whale meat, and said that the US “strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban.”
He also indicated that the US government is now considering what actions it might take in response to Iceland’s escalating whale kill that is “outside IWC control.”
US Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Monica Medina added that Iceland is “sending a clear message that [it] is not interested in cooperative international conservation of whales.”
Kate O’Connell, WDCS anti-whaling campaigner, commented, “Iceland’s escalating whaling and trade in whale products show indifference to world opinion, and disregard for both the IWC ban on commercial whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on international trade in whale products. We call on the US to take action against Iceland.”
Under US domestic law, there is a provision known as the Pelly Amendment that allows for a series of actions to be taken against a government that undermines the effectiveness of an international conservation agreement, the WDCS pointed out.
O’Connell continued, “Iceland has defied not one, but two international agreements, CITES and the IWC. Clearly, a strong response is merited.”
According to Morgunbladid, the IWC considers Icelandic whaling sustainable and has agreed to a catch of up to 153 fin whales per year.
“I believe we constantly have to point out that our whaling is sustainable, based on scientific consultation from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute. Our hunting is legal and at the time we, like other countries, issued a disclaimer to IWC’s ban,” Bjarnason stated.
“It is interesting that in the letter they accept our viewpoint to a certain degree that the Icelandic fin whale stock in itself isn’t in any danger of extinction, as we have, in fact, had scientifically confirmed,” the minister remarked.
“In the letter the Americans don’t criticize the scientific background on which our whaling is based,” he added.
As for the export of fin whale products, Bjarnason said marketing issues aren’t in the hands of the ministry but of whalers, yet adding that they can be looked into.
In the 2010 whaling season, 148 fin whales and 60 minke whales were caught in Icelandic waters which, according to WDCS, is Iceland’s biggest catch since 1985.
The WDCS states that this year’s catch produces more than 2,000 tons of meat and that already more than 4,000 tons of whale meat is sitting in stockpiles in Japan.
While most of Iceland’s fin whale products are exported to Japan, minke whale is sold on the domestic market.
Click here to read more about Iceland’s export of fin whale meat.