US President Barack Obama agreed yesterday to take diplomatic action to try to put an end to whaling in Iceland on the basis of the Pelly Amendment, which will reduce diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, trade sanctions will not be implemented.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphédinsson with US President Barack Obama at a NATO summit in 2009. Courtesy of the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Representatives of the Icelandic government met with employees of the US Department of State earlier this week to discuss the situation, visir.is reports.
“Iceland’s actions threaten the conservation status of an endangered species and undermine multilateral efforts to ensure greater worldwide protection for whales,” Obama said in a message to Congress, according to an AFP press release.
“Iceland’s increased commercial whaling and recent trade in whale products diminish the effectiveness of the [International Whaling Commission] conservation program,” the message continued.
After a campaign by environmentalists, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke certified Iceland under a domestic law earlier this year that allows retaliation against nations that flout the IWC moratorium.
But Obama said in the message that “I am not directing the Secretary of the Treasury to impose trade measures on Icelandic products for the whaling activities that led to the certification by the Secretary of Commerce.”
Instead, Obama directed US government officials to consider the appropriateness of traveling to Iceland, to raise the whaling issue with officials when they are there and to keep the situation under review.
Under the Pelly Amendment, countries that violate global fisheries conservation agreements can be subject to economic sanctions but Obama’s action waived its requirements.
In reaction to the move, Minister for the Environment Svandís Svavarsdóttir said in an interview on Rás 2 radio this morning that Iceland’s whaling is hardly sustainable, adding that revenue generated from whaling and the export of whale products deliver little to the national economy, mbl.is reports.
Meanwhile, a humpback whale charmed whale watchers on a tour with the company Gentle Giants in Húsavík, northeast Iceland, yesterday. There are still many whales in the bay Skjálfandi and whale watching will continue throughout this month, Morgunbladid reports.