Iceland to Ship Whale Meat to Japan via Norway

Washington, DC—Documents obtained by the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) show that Norway has begun to play a key role in Iceland's massive exports of whale meat to Japan in defiance of international agreements. Iceland—which has shipped thousands of metric tons of whale products to Japan since resuming commercial whaling in 2006—is now sending shipments of whale meat and blubber to Norway. From there, it is re-exported to Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., a company heavily involved in Japan's highly controversial "scientific whaling" program currently underway in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

In December 2013, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha announced that it would begin imports of Norwegian whale meat in 2014, stating that it needed to import and sell whale meat "in order to help subsidize future Japanese scientific whaling efforts." That same month, Lofothval, a whaling firm based in Reine in Norway's Lofoten Islands, received two permits from Norway's Environment Agency to send whale products to Japan. One shipment of 5,000 kg is identified as whale meat only from Lofothval, while a second shipment is identified as a re-export of 5,000 kg of Icelandic minke whale meat and blubber.

A second Norwegian company, Myklebust Trading AS, has sought government permission to ship up to 34,381 kg of minke whale products to the Toshi International company in Japan. This would be the second such shipment from Myklebust to Toshi International in the past year. In addition, Norwegian import statistics show that 14.1 metric tons of whale meat were imported from Iceland into Norway in February 2013.

Although international commercial trade in whale products is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), due to the listing on Appendix I of the majority of great whale species, Norway, Iceland and Japan have all lodged formal reservations to the ban. At the most recent CITES meeting in March 2013, however, concerns were raised about the growing level of trade in whale and other products under such reservations.

"The mounting evidence of collusion between whaling interests in Iceland, Japan and Norway is of deep concern, as is the growth in trade in whale products under reservations to CITES," notes AWI Executive Director Susan Millward. The United States has imposed diplomatic measures against Iceland for its massive whale product trade in defiance of CITES and may soon impose stiffer penalties, including targeted economic trade sanctions. AWI believes that the same penalties should be imposed on Norway and is calling on the U.S. and other governments to act decisively to convince Japan to reject all shipments of whale products from Norway and Iceland.

Copies of the documents cited are available upon request.

Notes for editors

1. A review of Lofothval's ownership shows that the majority of the company, 50.2 percent, is held by Reinebuen AS, a whaling and fishing company based in Lofoten. However, a 12.2 percent share of the company is said to be owned by a "Kristjan Loftsson"—the same name as that of the managing director and key shareholder of Iceland's fin whaling company Hvalur hf. That company hunted 134 endangered fin whales in 2013 in defiance of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling.

2. A 2012 powerpoint presentation by the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organization, Råfisklaget, indicates that in addition to Myklebust Trading AS and Lofothval, additional Norwegian whaling companies are looking to find a market in Japan. Hopen Fisk AS, Gunnar, Klo AS, and Br. Astrup Andreassen AS all participate in a working group dedicated to the resumption of minke whale meat trade with Japan.

3. In April 2013, a bill of lading obtained by AWI showed that 4,250 kg of frozen whale products were shipped from Myklebust Trading AS to Toshi International. The shipment left Ålesund, Norway, in mid-February, 2013, and arrived in Tokyo in early April. Although exact details as to the nature of Toshi International are not available, it is assumed that the company is an import/export agent.

4. The Icelandic whaling firm Hvalur hf has run into difficulties getting shipments of whale meat to Japan; in early July 2013, six containers of fin whale meat from Iceland, destined for Japan on board the Cosco Pride container ship, became the focus of a peaceful protest by Greenpeace activists at the German port of Hamburg. Authorities removed the containers from the ship, which sailed on without them.

A second shipping company, Evergreen Line, agreed to take the containers on from Hamburg, but changed its position when informed that the original booking information from the shipper was inaccurate, and that whale products were involved. Customs officials in Hamburg confirmed to RUV Icelandic television that there were discrepancies in some of the paperwork, and that "in some parts frozen fish were mentioned and in others whale products."

5. In 2010, Australia filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice calling for Japan to stop its research whaling, arguing that Japan was actually engaging in commercial whaling rather than science, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission ban. Japan and Australia made oral pleas in the case in June and July of 2013. A decision is expected soon.

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