Groups Call for U.S. Action as Iceland Violates International Whaling Law

More than 180 endangered whales are expected to be slaughtered in the country this year

WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of international animal welfare and conservation groups is calling on the Obama Administration to impose economic sanctions against Iceland after Iceland´s whaling company Hvalur hf announced it will hunt and sell the meat of up to 184 endangered fin whales this summer after a two year hiatus. Iceland is one of three countries that refuse to abide by international whaling laws banning the killing and trading of whales for commercial gain. The groups today sent a letter to the Secretaries of State, Commerce and Interior calling for stronger measures by the Obama Administration.

“President Obama has said that the US opposes resumed commercial whaling by Iceland” said Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute, AWI. “It is now time to act. Certification by the Secretary of Interior is long overdue and should be concluded urgently. There is no obstacle preventing President Obama from imposing trade sanctions against Iceland now under the Pelly Amendment.”

Iceland has flouted international laws since 2003; killing 496 minke whales and 280 endangered fin whales and exporting over 2,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan. Despite international pressure to discontinue this barbaric practice, Iceland recently announced plans to resume fin whaling this season after a two year pause, beginning in June.

“Endangered whales do not belong on a chopping block or dinner table,” said Taryn Kiekow, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The United States can play a pivotal role in ending the slaughter of whales by imposing economic sanctions that send a clear message—whaling is no longer tolerated.”

On September 15, 2011, President Obama adopted the Secretary of Commerce’s July 2011 “certification” under the Pelly Amendment that Iceland’s commercial whaling is undermining the effectiveness of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) which has prohibited commercial whaling since 1986. “Iceland's actions threaten the conservation status of an endangered species and undermine multilateral efforts to ensure greater worldwide protection for whales,” said President Obama. He directed Cabinet Secretaries to use diplomatic efforts to dissuade Iceland from continuing whaling.

“In the 21st century, for a government to support an industry built from the trade in flesh and other products from slow-to-reproduce marine mammals who can live up to 90 years of age, is reckless and irresponsible,” said Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International.

“Iceland’s actions meet the conditions for Pelly sanctions, and we’ve provided the U.S. government with the information necessary to target those sanctions at the Hvalur Group, which owns Iceland’s fin whaling industry, and its associated companies, including HB Grandi, Iceland’s biggest fishing company,” said Millward.

“Iceland has crossed a line by exporting more than 2,800 tons of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan since 2008, repeatedly defying the international protection for this endangered species afforded by its listing on Appendix I of CITES,” said Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

"President Obama, the time for talking about saving whales is past; it's now time for action,” said Phil Kline, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace, adding “as you said 'commercial whaling has to end'; imposing economic sanctions now will help that happen."

“Iceland’s decision to resume international trade in the meat of endangered fin whales presents the perfect opportunity for the U.S. to put real teeth behind its commitment to treat illegal wildlife trade as a foreign policy priority,” said Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor at the World Wildlife Fund. “If the U.S. government is willing to ask others to take action – then they should do the same.”

In December 2010, 19 global conservation and animal welfare groups filed a petition to the U.S. Commerce and Interior Secretaries calling for action against Iceland under the Pelly Amendment. The filing identified specific Icelandic companies as potential targets for economic sanctions, including major seafood industry players tied to Iceland’s whaling industry. At the center is the Icelandic fin whaling company Hvalur hf.

The 8 May letter to the Secretaries of Commerce, State and Interior can be accessed here:


Media Contacts:
Susan Millward, 202-640-9606,
EIA: Amy Zets, 202-483-6621,
The HSUS: Rebecca Basu, 301-258-3152,
NRDC: Jessica Lass, 310-434-2300,

Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)
The Animal Welfare Institute, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1951 and is dedicated to alleviating suffering inflicted on animals by humans.

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an NGO that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and force solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

Humane Society International
Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at Follow HSI on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

World Wildlife Fund
WWF is the world’s leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit to learn more.

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