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Iceland to begin whalemeat trade
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.
THE LEGALITIES OF WHALINGObjection – A country formally objects to the IWC moratorium, declaring itself exemptScientific – A nation issues unilateral ‘scientific permits’; any IWC member can do thisAboriginal – 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.
There is no environmental reason for opposing sustainable whaling
“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
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
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
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.
Author2006-09-06 at 10:08:00 am
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