Japan, Iceland for Whale Hunting
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2004 (ENS) - The United States officially
condemned Iceland and Japan on Tuesday for their ongoing whale
hunts. Both nations contend the hunts are necessary for scientific
research, but U.S. officials say that excuse is baseless and the
hunts are undermining international whale conservation efforts.
"The lethal research whaling conducted by both Iceland and
Japan is unnecessary for the management of whales, and we urge
them to use non-lethal research methods," said U.S. Commerce
Secretary Donald Evans.
Iceland, Japan and Norway are the only three nations engaged in
Both Iceland and Japan hunt whales under an exemption to the
International Whaling Commission's (IWC) 1986 moratorium on
commercial whaling that allows whaling for scientific research.
Critics see the whale hunts by Japan and Iceland as poorly
disguised commercial whaling. They note both governments fund
their whaling programs and the meat is sold in supermarkets and
restaurants in both countries.
Japan and Iceland say that under the terms of the IWC scientific
whaling provision, all the meat of the animals killed for research
must be utilized, not discarded.
Norway objected to the IWC moratorium and is not held to its terms.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the
resumption of whaling by Iceland last year, along with the whale
hunts by Japan and Norway, has brought whaling to an all-time high
since the moratorium was adopted in 1986.
"Far from improving, things are getting worse for the
whales," said Vassili Papastavrou of IFAW. "Most people
think we saved the whale in 1986 when a worldwide moratorium on
whaling came into force. Tragically, three countries have found
ways around the ban and are killing around 1,400 whales a year
Japanese fishers kill a minke whale in the Southern Ocean.
In March a global coalition of 140 nongovernmental
organizations in 55 countries called for a permanent halt to
whaling, which many believe is cruel and unnecessary. (Photo
The U.S. Commerce Department listed Iceland and Japan under the
Pelly Amendment, a 1967 measure developed to impose economic and
political pressure on governments and fishing fleets that do not
respect international conservation efforts.
When Iceland announced its return to whaling in August 2003 after
a 14 year hiatus, 23 nations, including the United States,
officially protested the decision.
Iceland killed 36 minke whales last year and announced in June
that it plans to kill 25 whales this year.
It has already killed five minke whales this year.
Iceland says the killings are necessary for its study of local
marine ecosystems, a claim disputed by many scientists and many
member governments of the IWC.
"Iceland began this hunt despite the appeals by a majority of
IWC member countries and scientists to do otherwise," Evans
The Pelly Amendment allows the U.S. government to subject listed
countries to trade sanctions, but the Bush administration stopped
short of exerting economic pressures on either nation.
"We will use all diplomatic channels to request both
countries to end their respective lethal research whaling
activities," Evans said.
U.S. delegations attending bilateral meetings with Iceland
regarding whaling issues will raise U.S. concerns and seek ways to
halt these actions, according to the Commerce Department.
In addition, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State will keep
these situations under close review and will continue to work
through bilateral relationships to urge Iceland to cease the whale
Japan was most recently certified under the Pelly Amendment in
2000 for the expansion of its lethal research whaling program in
the North Pacific.
That Pelly certification remains active, but Evans said the United
States has remained concerned about changes in the scale and
nature of Japan's North Pacific whaling activities.
Japan added Bryde's and sperm whales to its research harvest in
2000, and sei whales in 2002.
sent its ship Esperanza to Iceland to protest the whale hunt.
(Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
minke, and sperm whales are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal
Protection Act - sei and sperm whales are on the U.S. endangered
Japan, under the banner of scientific research, is hunting 150
minkes, 50 Bryde's, 50 sei, and 10 sperm whales in the North
Pacific this year.
Japan has repeatedly stated its desire to resume commercial
whaling and Iceland has indicated it intends to resume the
practice in 2006.
But there are signs that domestic support for the move in Iceland
may be dwindling.
IFAW reports that demand for whale meat in Iceland appears to be
weak. Of the 35 tons of meat landed last year 23 tons are still
And there is additional economic pressure, as whale watching
attracts some 72,000 tourists to Iceland each year and is worth
more than $14 million to the nation's economy.
On Tuesday, Greenpeace sailed one of its ships into the Icelandic
port of Isafjordur to protest the whale hunt and highlight how the
decision is undermining the nation's economic potential for
"The Icelandic Government has a golden opportunity to chose
living whales and ecotourism over whaling," said Greenpeace
International ocean campaigner Frode Pleym. "The [government]
should make the obvious wise decision and cancel the entire
Source: Environment News Service (ENS)