Urge President Obama to Impose Trade Sanctions on Icelandic Whaling Companies


On March 31, 2014, President Obama announced that the United States will not impose targeted trade sanctions to address Iceland’s commercial whaling. Instead the President revised and repackaged a series of diplomatic measures that US officials will be obligated to implement. Read more.


One of the recent whales caught and killed by Hvalur - © Jonny Zwick Photography

Dear Humanitarian,

We have a unique opportunity to persuade President Obama to take robust action against Iceland for its whale hunting and international trade in whale products. Please help AWI secure trade sanctions against Icelandic whaling companies.

Since Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2003 in defiance of an international ban, its whalers have killed a total of 414 endangered fin whales and 530 minke whales. They have also exported thousands of tons of whale meat and blubber to Japan for human consumption, to be manufactured into pet treats, and for other nonessential products.

A powerful US law called the "Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act" authorizes the president to prohibit the importation of products from countries whose fishing operations diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are such programs.

In response to a 2010 petition from AWI and other groups demanding robust action against Iceland for its whaling and trade, Secretary of Commerce Locke certified to the president that Iceland was undermining the IWC treaty by its continued whaling. President Obama responded in September 2011, stating that Iceland's "actions threaten the conservation status of an endangered species and undermine multilateral efforts to ensure greater worldwide protection for whales." He immediately directed cabinet secretaries and heads of government agencies to implement a series of diplomatic measures aimed at persuading Iceland to cease its commercial whaling activities. Unfortunately, the presidential directives had little effect and Iceland resumed its hunt of endangered fin whales in 2013 after a two year pause, killing 134 in a single year.

On February 6, 2014, Secretary of Interior Jewell finally responded to our 2010 petition, certifying Iceland for undermining CITES by trading in the products of protected whales. The president has 60 days to respond to this certification. Unfortunately, we anticipate that he is likely to continue to impose only diplomatic measures against Iceland.

More than 10 years of diplomacy, however, has completely failed to stop Iceland's uncontrolled—and increasing—whaling and trade. Indeed, Iceland's response to the 2011 presidential directives was to resume fin whaling. It's now time for the US to demonstrate the leadership on whaling issues expected by the American people and impose diplomatic AND targeted economic sanctions against Icelandic companies involved in whaling.

What You Can Do:
Please write to President Obama to urge him to take a tougher stance by imposing trade sanctions against Icelandic whaling companies until Iceland abandons its commercial whaling program and stops exporting whale products. You can send a letter through the Compassion Index by clicking here. Once you click through to the Compassion Index, you will find suggested talking points to include in your letter.

Please be sure to share our “Dear Humanitarian” eAlert with family, friends and co-workers, and encourage them to write, too.

As always, thank you very much for your help!


Susan Millward
Executive Director

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Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 6, 2014