Iceland Exports Over a Hundred Tons of Endangered Fin Whale as U.S. Sanction Deadline Looms

Sep 08, 2011, 14:00 ET from Environmental Investigation Agency

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Environmental and welfare groups today revealed that Iceland's commercial whaling operation exported a further 133 metric tons of whale products from endangered fin whales in July despite the pending threat of U.S. trade sanctions for violating conservation agreements that protect the endangered fin whales.

The 133 metric tons of whale meat worth an estimated US$1.2 million was exported to Japan in July 2011 even as the U.S. administration announced that Iceland was defying the global ban on commercial whaling.

"There is a line in the sand that Iceland has just crossed," said Allan Thornton, President of the Environmental Investigation Agency. "The Icelandic killing of fin whales is illegal and its illegal export of whale meat will lead to further illegal killing of fin whales. Only U.S. sanctions against fish imports by the seafood company linked to Iceland's whaling company will stop this environmental crime."

Since 2006, 280 endangered fin whales, the second largest animal on the planet, have been killed by the Icelandic whaling company "Hvalur", despite the international ban on commercial whaling.  

On July 19th, Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified that Iceland was undermining the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) by permitting commercial whaling and international trade in endangered fin whale meat. The Commerce Secretary had previously warned the Icelandic Fisheries and Agricultural Ministry in November 2010 that U.S. law required a response to Iceland's commercial whale killing.

President Obama now has until September 17th to report to Congress on any action he decides to take, including possibility sanctions against Icelandic products exported to the U.S.

Iceland has exported almost 1400 metric tons of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan, worth around US$18 million, since it began killing fin whales.

As well as the shipments of whale meat and blubber to Japan, Iceland has exported whale products including whale oil to Norway, the Faroes Islands and Latvia, despite a ban on such international trade in products of great whale species by the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said: "This recent export demonstrates the urgent need for President Obama to immediately impose economic measures including trade sanctions against Iceland."

Sue Fisher, Policy Director for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said today that "Not only is Iceland abusing two international conservation agreements, it is setting fin whale quotas that are three times higher than sustainable levels according to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the world's foremost authority on whale science. "U.S. citizens overwhelmingly oppose commercial whaling, and nothing less than economic sanctions will fulfill President Obama's promise to strengthen the commercial ban on whale hunting.

Editors Notes:

On 24th September, "Making a Killing", a documentary featuring EIA's investigation into the Icelandic fin whale hunt and trade will be shown on the Nat Geo Wild Channel.

"Renegade Whaling: Iceland's Creation of an Endangered Species Trade" offers an in-depth look at how Iceland is defying international treaties. Read the report

In 2009, Iceland dramatically increased its fin whale quota to 150 animals a year.

In December 2010, as Iceland's self-allocated whaling quotas and exports reached record levels, 19 U.S. NGOs, representing tens of millions of U.S. citizens, filed a "Pelly petition" pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the US Fisheries Act, urging the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to certify that Iceland is undermining international conservation agreements calling for the imposition of trade sanctions against  fisheries-related businesses linked to Iceland's whaling company.

Secretary Locke's 'certification' triggered a 60 day review period by the President during which time he may impose economic or trade sanctions.  

Icelandic export data is available in English here:

Japanese import data is available in English here:

CONTACT: EIA, 202-483-6621

SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency