13 Animal Protection and Conservation Groups Call on U.S. Government to Sanction Iceland For Killing Whales in Defiance of Moratorium

On December 13th, a coalition of 13 animal protection and conservation organizations asked the U.S. government to take swift and decisive political and economic action against Iceland for resuming a commercial whale hunt in defiance of a 20-year moratorium. The Iceland Fisheries Ministry started a commercial hunt of fin and minke whales in October, in addition to its current whaling under the guise of "scientific" research.

Despite worldwide opposition, Iceland killed seven endangered fin whales and one minke whale before the hunt was postponed due to inclement weather. The Fisheries Ministry says it intends to take a total of 30 minke whales and nine fin whales for commercial purposes, in addition to another 39 for "science" research, by September 2007.

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the groups urged the Bush Administration to impose trade sanctions under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman's Protection Act, which allows the President of the United States to prohibit the importation of any fish or wildlife products from that country when its nationals are diminishing the effectiveness of an international program designed to protect fisheries and wildlife. The petition refers to the International Whaling Commission, which enacted a moratorium on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which prohibits international trade in whale meat.

"We believe that the time for review, diplomacy and dialogue with Iceland has long passed," the groups wrote. "Iceland is now undermining the IWC on two fronts and conducting commercial as well as scientific whaling in defiance of the IWC's moratorium. It needs to face both certification and sanctions by the United States for its conduct."

The coalition, with a combined membership of more than 11 million, comprises The Humane Society of the United States and its international arm, Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Animal Welfare Institute, the World Society for the Protection of Animals USA, Cousteau Society, American Cetacean Society, Cetacean Society International, Earth Island Institute, International Wildlife Coalition, and The Whaleman Foundation.

In June 2004, Iceland was certified under the Pelly Amendment for its scientific whaling program, and this certification remains active. After controversially rejoining the IWC with a reservation to the moratorium, Iceland soon launched its research whaling program. The program has since killed 160 minke whales, including 60 in 2006.

"We believe that a Pelly Certification and sanctions against Iceland are necessary to uphold and confirm the United States' long-standing policy of opposing commercial as well as lethal research whaling," the groups wrote. "Iceland's whaling program, in addition to its plans for international trade, show indifference to world opinion and blatant disregard of two vital international conservation programs."

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