Despite international condemnation, Iceland has become the latest nation to resume hunting whales. Like Japan, it justifies this indefensible action under the guise of "scientific whaling." On August 18, Icelandic whalers killed a minke whale, the first such slaughter in almost 15 years.
At the most recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Berlin, the Government of Iceland outlined its scheme to resume whaling, claiming its intention to do so for scientific purposes. One hundred minke, one hundred fin, and fifty sei whales are to be slaughtered during Iceland's renewed killing spree.
The objective, according to the proposal, "is to increase understanding of the biology and feeding ecology of important cetacean species in Icelandic waters." In reality, Iceland is merely mimicking Japan's most recent disingenuous claim that whales eat too much fish and they must be hunted to preserve the long-term viability of its commercial fisheries.
The U.S. Department of State officially has opposed Iceland's decision, claiming "that lethal research on whales is not necessary, and that the needed scientific data can be obtained by well-established non-lethal means." The U.S. is not alone in this opinion. A démarche sent to the Icelandic Government by the U.S. and 22 other countries notes that "equally good data can be secured in almost all cases by non-lethal techniques." The statement goes on to reject Iceland's claim "that the research will provide useful data on the amount of fish whales eat."
The underlying threat is clear: Iceland is setting the stage for a return to full-scale commercial whaling, which reports claim could begin in three years.
Iceland actually left the IWC in 1992 and rejoined last year with a reservation on the whaling moratorium. Absurdly, Iceland was allowed to vote in favor of its own readmission. According to Dr. Sandra Altherr of the German non-governmental organization Pro Wildlife, Iceland has killed over 35,000 whales since 1883, and its current intention is to open up a commercial international trade in whale meat with Japan.
In a world in which whale-watching is an increasingly lucrative business it is truly amazing that more countries do not summarily reject whaling in any form. Dr. Altherr notes that Iceland is "one of the best areas for whale watching in the world.... In 2002, 62,050 people-30% of all visitors to the country-went whale watching ... contributing an estimated U.S. $14 million in 2002. Whaling, by contrast, yielded a maximum revenue of U.S. $3.5 million in 1989."
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Write to the Embassy of Iceland urging an immediate end to any whaling whether for commercial or scientific purposes. Remind them that whale-watching is much more lucrative, and that you will not vacation in countries that promote or allow the massacre of majestic sea creatures such as whales. Write to:
Ambassador Helgi Ágústsson
Embassy of Iceland
1156 15th Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20005-1704.