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The U.S. takes action against Icelandic whaling

Sep 19, 2011

The decision is finally in – the U.S. will use diplomatic measures, not economic sanctions, to impede Iceland's commercial whaling activities

During the past two months, more than 36,000 WSPA supporters contacted President Obama, urging him to impose diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iceland due to its defiant whale hunt activities. Today, we are happy to announce that the president is taking action against Iceland’s whaling program.

Under a law called the Pelly Amendment, the president has identified various diplomatic measures that will be used to address the issue; however, he did not impose economic sanctions on products imported into the U.S., from Iceland.

While it’s disappointing that only non-trade measures are being pursued, WSPA is pleased that the U.S. is taking steps in the right direction to hold Iceland accountable for its cruel and unnecessary whaling activities.


The U.S. response to Iceland’s defiant whaling activities

Iceland has repeatedly ignored international conservation agreements, including the International Whaling Commission (IWC)’s ban on whaling, and drastically increased its whaling activities and international trade in whale products in recent years. Hundreds of minke whales and endangered fin whales have been killed since Iceland resumed whaling in 2006 - nearly 300 animals in 2009-2010 alone!

According to the Pelly Amendment, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior can formally “certify” a county if it is “diminishing the effectiveness” of conservation treaties, such as the IWC’s ban on whaling. Once a country is certified, the president then has the authority to impose sanctions.

In response to a petition filed by WSPA and 18 other groups in 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) reviewed Iceland’s whaling activities and determined them to be undermining global conservation agreements. The DOC formally announced Iceland’s certification on July 19, 2011, giving President Obama two months to decide whether the U.S. would take further action, including diplomatic and economic sanctions.

New diplomatic measures against Iceland

After more than 53,000 WSPA supporters from around the world made it clear that it was time for the U.S. to show strong leadership and protect our planet’s great whales – in actions to the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior, as well as President Obama –  the president decided in September to impose various diplomatic measures against Iceland, including:

  • The U.S. will raise concerns about whaling at meetings with Icelandic officials;

  • U.S. officials will evaluate the appropriateness of visits to Iceland;

  • Arctic cooperation projects will be reviewed and the U.S.’s involvement will be linked to whether Iceland abides by the IWC’s moratorium on whaling;

  • The U.S. will continue monitoring activities of Icelandic companies that engage in commercial whaling; and

  • Under a reporting requirement, the Departments of State and Commerce must keep the situation under review and report back to the President

WSPA strongly believes that the slaughter of whales is inhumane, unnecessary and unsustainable – and it needs to end.

For more on our work to protect marine mammals, please visit our Marine Mammals website.


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