Iceland


Iceland returned to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2002, having officially left some years earlier in protest over the 1986 commercial whaling ban.
 
Technically, Iceland should thereafter have been bound by the commercial whaling ban decision, because this was one of the prevailing conditions when it rejoined the Commission. The Icelandic Government ignored calls from many nations, including Australia, to adhere to this position and has since taken whales using both the "objection" and scientific permit loopholes.
 
At the 2003 IWC meeting Iceland presented a scientific permit proposal to take 100 minke, 100 fin and 50 sei whales per year for two years for "feeding ecology studies". In 2006/07, 60 minke whales were taken under scientific permit and an additional six fin whales and one minke under the commercial whaling ban objection.  In 2007/08 39 minkes were taken under scientific permit and another six under the objection provision.
 
Icelandic whaling increased
Early in 2009, only weeks before the Icelandic coalition government resigned in the wake of protracted hostile public reaction to the nation's financial crisis, the Fisheries Minister announced expanded national whaling quotas. Iceland's whalers were granted 100 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales per year, for five years.
 
Ms Johanna Sigurdardottir became the new Prime Minister of Iceland on 1 February 2009. A popular politician in Iceland, Prime Minister Sigurdardottir reportedly had a good relationship with the Green-Left Movement. Unfortunately this was not sufficient to bring about a change in the position on whaling; quite the opposite in fact.
 
Newly appointed Fisheries Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson made it clear that the Sigurdardottir government had no intention of phasing out or even reducing Icelandic whaling.
 
For 2010 and 2011 the quotas were increased to 200 minke and 150 fin whales, all under the IWC objection provision.

Under the current quota system, the Iceland's Fisheries Minister can  allow up to 229 minke and 154 fin whales to be killed annually. The 2014 hunt took 22 minkes and 137 fins.

For the moment there may be a reprieve for fin whales, with Hvalur - Iceland's biggest whaling company and the one that targets fin whales - announcing that it will not kill fin whales in 2016. The reason given is disagreements with Japan over the extent of testing required for toxins.


Fin whales are classified as an endangered species by the globally recognised International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
 
International action
President Obama has directed US Government agencies to investigate “options for responding to continued whaling by Iceland”. This would include diplomatic, economic and trade actions that might be taken if Iceland takes fin whales this northern summer.
 
Trading in extinction
Not content to simply go on killing whales for domestic consumption, Iceland continues to export whale meat and products. Hundreds of tonnes have been sold, most of it to whaling nations Norway and Japan.
 
When the moratorium came into effect in 1986, the commercial trade in whale products became illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Iceland, Norway and Japan, all of them signatories to CITES, immediately lodged ‘reservations’ which provided a loophole enabling them to ignore yet another international agreement to conserve and protect whales.
 
It is bad enough to trade the meat of minke whales, which came under CITES prohibition as a result of the moratorium. Minkes are not yet considered to be in danger of extinction. The export of endangered fin whale meat, however, is another matter. 


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