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 user 2006-09-06 at 10:08:00 am Views: 44
  • #16387

    Iceland to begin whalemeat trade

    Whaling ship WSPA

    Some of Iceland’s scientific catch will be exported to the Faroes

    Iceland is to begin exporting whalemeat from its scientific whaling programme.

    Iceland’s whaling commissioner told the BBC that up to two tonnes of minke whalemeat would be exported to the Faroe Islands.
    groups say the deal breaches international
    rules on trading threatened species, though Iceland and the Faroe
    Islands say it does not.

    Campaigners also say the trade could become a smokescreen for illegal hunting of whales.

    Although commercial whaling is banned worldwide,
    Iceland, like Japan, hunts minke whales for “scientific research”; this
    year its boats caught about 60 individuals.

    Until now, meat from the hunt has been sold in Iceland.

    Objection – A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exempt
    Scientific – A nation issues unilateral ‘scientific permits’; any IWC member can do this
    Aboriginal – IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food

    But the country’s whaling commissioner Stefan Asmundsson told the BBC
    News website that exports to the Faroe Islands will begin soon.

    “Essentially Iceland and the Faroes established a joint
    trade area, and because of that we do not have any limits on exporting
    whalemeat to the Faroes any more than any other products,” he said.

    “Our motivation is to increase trade and therefore prosperity in both countries.”

    Countries and borders

    Environmental groups believe the trade is illegal under
    the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species
    (Cites), which prevents member countries from exporting or importing
    products of “listed” species unless they have tabled a “reservation”.

    Iceland has tabled a reservation on minkes; but Denmark, which includes the Faroes as a dependent territory, has not.

    Stefan Asmundsson.  Image: BBC

    There is no environmental reason for opposing sustainable whaling

    Stefan Asmundsson

    “We think it’s illegal under Cites, and we are onto it,” said Arni
    Finnsson from the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (Inca).

    The key issue is whether Denmark acts on behalf of the Faroes, which are now largely self-governing, in Cites matters.

    In 2003, when Norway began whalemeat exports to the
    Faroes, Cites secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers ruled the deal
    illegal because of Denmark’s membership.

    Since then, Denmark has told Cites that the Faroes are
    exempt; and the Faroes Islands government said in a statement: “In
    conjunction with Denmark’s ratification of the Cites convention in
    1977, a unilateral declaration was submitted noting that the convention
    would be applicable in the Faroe Islands when the Faroese authorities
    had established the necessary legislation.

    “As such legislation has not been established in the
    Faroe Islands, the declaration made by Denmark in 1977 still applies;
    Cites provisions… are not applicable to the Faroe Islands.”

    The Danish government says it continues to press the
    Faroes to implement Cites legislation; in the meantime, environmental
    groups disagree with the Faroes exemption and are looking at the
    possibilities of a legal challenge.

    Betrayals of trust

    Whale schematic BBC

    As often happens with whaling, protagonists on both sides of the issue cite what they see as past betrayals.

    Faroe Islanders have a tradition of catching and eating
    whales, and say that the 1986 global moratorium on commercial hunting
    should by now have been lifted – which anti-whaling nations and
    environmental groups want to prevent at all costs.

    Anti-whaling campaigners say the Faroes made a public
    promise in 1977, when Denmark joined Cites, to turn Cites rules into
    national legislation and abide by its terms.

    “Twenty-nine year later, they still don’t have [national
    legislation]“, observed Vassili Papastavrou of the International Fund
    for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

    “Iceland has no DNA register of whales killed, so the
    tiny amount being exported will achieve nothing more than to act as a
    cover for illegal whaling in the Faroe Islands,” he told the BBC News

    This year’s meeting of the International Whaling
    Commission (IWC) saw a victory for pro-whaling nations with the passing
    of the “St Kitts Declaration” approving an eventual return to
    commercial hunting, with the countries voting in favour including

    Japanese delegation celebrates vote.  Image: AP

    The past year has also seen an expansion of Japan’s catch, which it also takes under regulations permitting scientific hunting.

    The position of these countries is that there is nothing
    morally wrong with whaling, and that numbers of some stocks are high
    enough to permit sustainable hunting.

    “Iceland’s position is that we put whaling into two categories – sustainable and unsustainable,” said Stefan Asmundsson.

    “We are firmly against unsustainable whaling; but in the
    long term we just see whaling as another activity, and anyone who
    opposes sustainable whaling is not doing so from an environmental
    perspective because there is no environmental reason for opposing
    sustainable whaling.”

    Anti-whaling countries such as Germany, Brazil and
    Belgium have vowed to redouble efforts to prevent the return of
    commercial hunting, and have lodged diplomatic protests against Japan
    and Norway over the last year.