In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling, effective from 1985/86. Iceland did not formally object to the 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling, and was thus bound by the ban; however, Iceland continued to whale after the moratorium took effect under the guise of “scientific” whaling, taking approximately 60 whales per year until 1992 when it withdrew from the IWC.
In 2002, Iceland rejoined the IWC in a controversial vote and lodged a reservation to the moratorium—a move disputed by many countries as being contrary to international law. The following countries subsequently formally objected to Iceland's reservation: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Monaco, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Italy, Mexico and New Zealand also objected to the reservation and noted that they do not consider the Convention as being in force between their countries and Iceland.
Iceland resumed scientific whaling in 2003 and over five years killed 200 minke whales. In 2006, it resumed large-scale commercial whaling. Since that time, 414 endangered fin whales and 530 minke whales have been killed by Icelandic whalers, relying on the controversial “reservation” to evade the commercial whaling moratorium.
Iceland joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2002, and also took a reservation to the listing of whales on Appendix I. It resumed large-scale trade in whale products to Japan in 2008, and since that time has shipped 5,000 metric tons of (mostly endangered fin) whale meat and blubber to Japan and elsewhere. While technically these exports are legal, numerous entities, including the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) have raised concerns that such sizeable levels of trade undermine the effectiveness of Appendix 1 listings.
Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture announced in December 2013 that it would allow commercial whaling to continue for at least the next five years for fin whales, with a quota of 154 allowed kills each year through 2018. In addition, Iceland self-allocated a quota of 229 minke whales each year through 2019.
In February 2014, it was revealed that Iceland had not collected any data on either Instantaneous Death Rate (IDR) or Time to Death (TTD) for whales killed in its commercial operations. In other words, Iceland could not provide an answer as to how long it took to kill whales. Any claims it makes that its whaling operations are “humane” lack any supporting evidence.