U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified to President Obama  that Iceland’s commercial whaling and international trade in fin whale products is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and urged the Government of Iceland to cease permitting commercial whaling. Iceland killed 273 endangered fin whales in 2009 and 2010. Iceland has not harvested any fin whales so far in 2011, but the government continues to permit whaling and has issued a whale quota for the 2011 season. Iceland has continued to harvest minke whales in 2011. The IWC has in place a global moratorium on commercial whaling.
“Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable,” Locke said. “Iceland’s harvest of whales and export of fin whale meat threaten an endangered species and undermine worldwide efforts to protect whales. It’s critical that the Government of Iceland take immediate action to comply with the moratorium.”
Iceland has significantly increased its whaling activities in recent years and resumed international trade in whale products. Last November, Secretary Locke issued a statement on Iceland’s escalation of its commercial whaling and its resumption of international trade in whale products, stating that the United States strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban, and urges Iceland to cease international trade of whale meat.
In his lette today, Secretary Locke recommended that the president take a number of actions, including:
- Direct relevant U.S. delegations attending meetings with Iceland and senior administration officials visiting Iceland to raise U.S. concerns regarding commercial whaling by Icelandic companies and seek ways to halt such action;
- Direct Cabinet secretaries to evaluate the appropriateness of visits to Iceland depending on continuation of the current suspension of fin whaling;
- Direct the Department of State to examine Arctic cooperation projects, and where appropriate, link U.S. cooperation to the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy and abiding by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
- Direct the Departments of Commerce and State to consult with other international actors on efforts to end Icelandic commercial whaling and have Iceland abide by IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
- Direct the Department of State to inform the Government of Iceland that the United States will continue to monitor the activities of Icelandic companies that engage in commercial whaling; and
- Direct relevant U.S. agencies to continue to examine other options for responding to continued whaling by Iceland. Further, the letter directs the relevant Departments and offices to report to the president on their actions within six months, unless Icelandic nationals resume fin whaling prior to that time, in which case immediately upon resumption of fin whaling by Icelandic nationals.
The United States has strongly and repeatedly objected to Iceland’s commercial whaling. Under the Pelly Amendment to the U.S. Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, the Secretary of Commerce certifies to the president that “nationals of a foreign country . . . are conducting fishing operations in a manner or under circumstances which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program.”
In 2004, then-Commerce Secretary Donald Evans certified Iceland as a country that is undermining the effectiveness of the whaling convention and the IWC through its scientific whaling. In 2006, then-Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez kept Iceland certified for its commercial whaling. Secretary Locke recommended that the president direct U.S. officials and agencies to undertake a number of actions in response to Iceland’s commercial whaling activities, and evaluate further potential responses to Iceland’s harvest of whales outside of IWC control.
The Department of Commerce conserves, protects, and manages living marine resources through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The United States supports conservation of the world’s whale populations through the International Whaling Commission.