Nineteen conservation and animal welfare groups, representing tens of millions of U.S. citizens, today called on the US Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to impose trade sanctions against Iceland for its escalating defiance of international conservation agreements on commercial whaling.
A petition filed by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) on behalf of the ‘Whales Need US’ coalition and Species Survival Network, urges Secretaries Locke and Salazar to invoke U.S. conservation legislation known as the Pelly Amendment against Iceland, a move that could deal a death blow to Iceland’s out of control whaling industry.
The Pelly Amendment authorizes the President to impose trade sanctions against another country for “diminishing the effectiveness” of conservation agreements; in Iceland’s case, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which bans commercial whaling, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits international commercial trade in whale products.
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and dramatically increased its self-allocated quotas in 2009 to include 150 fin whales (an endangered species) annually. Iceland’s export of whale products has also sharply increased; in 2010, Iceland exported more than 800 tonnes of whale meat, blubber and oil, worth more than US$11 million, to Japan, Norway and the Faroe Islands and made illegal shipments of whale products to Latvia and Belarus.
The U.S certified Iceland under the Pelly Amendment in 2004 for its so-called ‘research whaling’, but President Bush declined to impose trade sanctions at that time. The Obama administration is taking a fresh look at Iceland’s renegade whaling and trade, indicating recently that it is “evaluating potential responses”. “We applaud the U.S. for recognizing that more must be done to stop this senseless killing,” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist for the Animal Welfare Institute. “This petition provides the government with the evidence it needs to act urgently and decisively to impose significantly stronger measures against Iceland and its whaling industry.”
“Now is the time for the U.S. to take robust measures against Iceland for its continued defiance of international law,” said Taryn Kiekow, staff attorney for the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council. “Iceland’s commercial whaling policy is considered archaic and cruel by the rest of the world and we ask the U.S. to impose trade sanctions against it.”
The conservation and welfare groups have identified specific Icelandic companies as potential targets for trade sanctions; these include major seafood industry players that are directly tied to Iceland’s whaling industry. At the center is Icelandic fin whaling company, Hvalur, Sue Fisher of WDCS explains.
“Iceland’s actions meet the conditions for Pelly sanctions, and we’ve provided the U.S. government with the information necessary to carry out sanctions by identifying the ‘Hvalur Group’, and its associated companies, including HB Grandi, Iceland’s biggest fishing company.”
“The petition exposes Hvalur Group’s links to Iceland’s whaling industry through shareholdings, board memberships and investments. It also provides a description of companies’ activities, their support of and ties to whaling, and details the commodities they are known to export to the United States.”
Kitty Block of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is optimistic that the Obama administration will impose sanctions: “we are greatly encouraged to hear that the administration has serious concerns with Iceland’s whaling and trade and is ‘considering its options’. Imposing trade measures will provide the U.S. with the opportunity to demonstrate the kind of leadership on whale conservation that the U.S. public demands”.