Conservation Groups Condemn Resumption of Iceland's Brutal Hunt of Endangered Whales

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Fin Killed in Iceland in 2014 - Anja Reckendorf/WDCLONDONConservation groups are calling on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its member governments to condemn Iceland’s commercial whale hunt following confirmation that the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf has killed yet another endangered fin whale.

The whale was killed off Iceland’s west coast and landed at the company’s processing station in Hvalfjörður, less than an hour’s drive from the capital Reykjavik.

The kill, the first of the 2014 season, coincides with a working party meeting of the European Union Environment Council in preparation for the meeting of the IWC in September. NGOs are pushing for governments to take a strong stand against Icelandic whaling ahead of, and during, the IWC meeting.

Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002 with a reservation to the global moratorium on commercial whaling adopted in 1982, and resumed commercial whaling in 2006. Almost all the fin whale meat originating from the 2014 hunt is destined for Japan, despite a ban on international trade in fin whales under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Since 2008, more than 5,540 tonnes of fin whale meat has been exported, with an unprecedented single shipment of 2,000 tonnes to Japan in March this year.

Clare Perry, senior campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said: “EU member states have to wake up to the fact that commercial whaling and trade, in defiance of the IWC and CITES, is taking place right on their doorstep. This hunt of endangered whales must no longer go unchallenged—we look to EU member countries to lead opposition to Iceland’s whaling at the IWC meeting in Slovenia.”

Susan Millward, executive director at Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), said: “Iceland is a remarkable country with friendly people, picturesque landscapes, and a wealth of tourism opportunities, yet its international reputation is consistently eroded by promoting commercial whaling and trade in whale products in violation of international treaties.”

Chris Butler-Stroud, CEO of Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC), said: “The world cannot stand by and allow Icelandic whalers to kill fin whales—the second largest creature on the planet—with impunity. WDC calls for urgent and concerted action by conservation-minded countries around the globe to oppose a hunt which is as unnecessary as it is brutal.”

HB Grandi, Iceland’s leading seafood company—whose chairman, Kristjan Loftsson, is also the CEO of Hvalur—has played an active role in Iceland’s whaling industry, both promoting whaling and providing HB Grandi facilities in Arkranes, Iceland, for the processing of endangered fin whale meat for the export market. In addition to meat, the blubber and offal of the fin whale killed today will be rendered into oil.

Interviews and images are available upon request; please contact:
Susan Millward, 202-640-9606, susan@awionlione.org

Notes for editors

1. Since Iceland first allowed whale hunts to resume in 2003, its whalers have killed nearly 1,000 whales, including 414 endangered fin whales and 530 minke whales, by exploiting controversial loopholes to evade the commercial whaling ban. In 1982, the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling, effective from 1986/7. Iceland did not formally object to the moratorium at that time, but left the IWC in 1992. In 2002, it rejoined with a reservation to the moratorium, which is not legally recognized by many nations. It resumed so-called “scientific whaling” in 2003 and commercial whaling (including of fin whales) under its reservation in 2006.

2. Iceland is the only country in the world carrying out commercial whaling of fin whales—an endangered species—in defiance of the moratorium agreed to by the IWC. Iceland has increased its self-allocated whaling quotas in recent years and, in December 2013, announced a five-year block quota that could result in the killing of nearly 2,000 whales.

3. HB Grandi is Iceland’s largest fishing and seafood export company, controlling nearly 12 percent of the country’s fishing quotas. In light of HB Grandi’s role in promoting Icelandic whaling, non-governmental organizations have persuaded several fish wholesalers and retailers, including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Lidl, Icelandic Seachill, and Brake Brothers in Europe, and North American retailer High Liner Foods not to source fish from HB Grandi.

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The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home and in the wild. www.awionline.org

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and US-based NGO that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals. www.eia-international.org

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is the leading global charity dedicated to the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins, defending them against the many threats they face through campaigns, lobbying, advising governments, conservation projects, field research and rescue. Its vision is a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free. www.whales.org.