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 user 2006-10-18 at 12:41:00 pm Views: 60
  • #16608

    Iceland begins commercial whaling

    Iceland has announced it is to resume commercial hunting of whales.

    Icelandic ships will take nine fin whales, an endangered species, and 30
    minke whales each year.

    In a statement, the fisheries ministry said the nation was dependent on
    living marine resources, and would keep catches within sustainable limits.

    Norway is the only other country to hunt commercially; most are bound by
    a 20-year moratorium. Currently Iceland hunts minkes for “scientific


    There will be a legal challenge  Guiseppe Raaphorst 

    The scientific plan will conclude at the end of the 2007 season, the
    government said.

    The announcement has angered conservation groups and anti-whaling
    nations, with some talking of a legal challenge.

    ‘Sustainable’ catch

    The fisheries ministry said hunting could begin as early as next week,
    and suggested the meat may be exported, which could prove a contentious
    suggestion as the trade is heavily restricted under international law.

    Iceland maintains local stocks are high enough to permit some hunting,
    despite the endangered status of the fin.



    “The total stock size of central and north Atlantic minke whales is
    close to 70,000 animals, of which around 43,600 are in Icelandic coastal
    waters,” said the government’s statement.

    “The number of fin whales in the [area] is estimated at around
    25,800 animals.

    “The catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with
    the principle of sustainable development.”

    Whales and fish

    Rumours of a resumption have been circulating for some weeks, and a local
    company Hvalur hf has, according to newspapers, been outfitting a processing
    plant and staffing a whaling ship.

    The resumption will be greeted with dismay by conservation groups,
    alarmed by the passing of the first pro-hunting resolution in 20 years at this
    year’s International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting.

    “We are surprised and disappointed,” said Arni Finnsson from
    the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (Inca).


    THE LEGALITIES OF WHALING  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

    “There is no market for this meat in Iceland, there is no
    possibility to export it to Japan; the government appears to have listened to
    fishermen who are blaming whales for eating all the fish.

    “This decision is giving the finger to the international

    The Icelandic government had become frustrated with IWC negotiations on
    the Revised Management Scheme (RMS), a protocol designed to re-introduce
    commercial hunting under strict international catch limits, said Rune Frovik
    from the High North Alliance, a group representing whalers, sealers and
    fishermen in high latitude countries.

    “When Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002, they said they would not
    resume commercial whaling before 2006; they also said they would not resume as
    long as there was progress on the RMS.

    “But at this year’s IWC meeting, the process stopped – there was no

    Legal moves

    Iceland gave up commercial hunts when the global moratorium was
    introduced in 1986, and stopped all whaling in 1989.

    Having left the IWC in 1992, it rejoined in 2002 stating a
    “reservation” to the moratorium; and the circumstances surrounding
    its rejoining may leave its decision to resume commercial hunting open to legal

    Countries stating a reservation at the moratorium’s inception are allowed
    to hunt commercially, though Norway is the only one that does.



    “Anti-whaling nations at the time Iceland rejoined said the
    rejoining was illegal because it hadn’t taken the reservation when it left the
    IWC,” said Sue Lieberman, director of the global species programme at WWF

    “The view of anti-whaling countries will, I predict, not change -
    they believe that Iceland’s reservation is not legal – so we, and I believe
    they, will argue that Iceland’s commercial whaling is in contravention of the

    Dutch whaling commissioner Guiseppe Raaphorst confirmed that view.

    “We never recognised [Iceland's] reservation,” he said.
    “You cannot step down from a convention and then rejoin it under a
    reservation – that is not possible under international law, and there will be a
    legal challenge.”

    Mr Raaphorst doubted that Iceland would be able to export the meat.
    “They would not be allowed to export meat because it is prevented under
    the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites),”
    he said.

    Cites regulations do not prevent Iceland from exporting whalemeat because
    it has a formal exemption under the treaty, but virtually every country is
    banned from importing it.

    Iceland recently announced plans to export meat from its scientific
    whaling programme to the Faroe Islands, whose government maintains it is exempt
    from Cites regulations.

    Icelandic and Norwegian whalers would like in the long
    run to export to Japan, the world’s biggest market for whale meat.