The US Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke formally announced today that Iceland is undermining the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by hunting whales in defiance of the IWC’s global ban on commercial whaling.
An unnamed US official told the Associated Press that the Obama administration will refer to the so-called Pelly Amendment; the Pelly amendment is a conservation legislation that allows the President of the United States to take action against nations or nationals thought to violate international conventions.
President Obama has 60 days to decide whether to impose economic measures including trade sanctions against Iceland.
Officials told the Associated Press that the US government is concerned with Iceland’s hunting of finbacks and the import of whale products to Japan and other countries, mbl.is reports.
Photo by Icelandic Press Agency
Iceland’s whaling fleet has not caught a single finback so far this season but it has caught 38 minke whales. Hvalur, an Icelandic whaling fishery, is yet to decide whether the finback will be hunted at all this year; the decision is to be made in August.
Iceland re-commenced whaling for scientific purposes in 2004 and the US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans issued a formal statement at that time referring to the Pelly Amendment.
He believed the Icelandic government was undermining the current conservation policy of the IWC with their action. Former President George Bush Jr. took no further action.
The US government has repeatedly applied the Pelly Amendment against Norway due to their whaling policy but have not applied the sanctions available to them.
An unnamed source from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told AP that should Iceland succeed in establishing international trade in whalemeat, it will undermine the offiical ban on whaling. “It is likely more nations will commence whaling regardless of the fact that whale stocks are still recovering from the excess of whaling practices in the twentieth century”.
Environmental organizations have urged the US government to take action against Iceland. In a statement from Kate O’Connell of Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, she told Iceland Review, “President Obama has a unique opportunity to demonstrate U.S. leadership on whaling.”
Gary Locke told AP the official declaration will relate to some of the actions available to the US government.
One of the actions available is for a full ban on the import of seafood products to be applied against Icelandic companies affilitiated with the whaling industry, as well as diplomatic actions such as US officials declining invitations to visit Iceland, and the withdrawal from various collaborations between the two nations.