Whale Advocates Warn Seafood Expo Participants - Beware of Whalers in your Midst

WASHINGTON DC—As the Seafood Expo North America opens at the Boston Convention Center (March 16–18) animal protection and conservation organizations are warning the tens of thousands of international participants—from suppliers of seafood products and services to buyers—to watch out for whalers.

Advertisements on the Boston’s MBTA Silver Line—the subway and tram line that serves downtown Boston, the Convention Center, and Logan International Airport—ask visitors to the Expo, “Do you know who caught your seafood?”

The ads feature an artful image of a multi-faceted paper whale and direct viewers to the Web address dontbuyfromicelandicwhalers.com. The website provides details of the Icelandic companies that hunt—or are tied to those that hunt—hundreds of whales a year in defiance of an international ban.

The advertisements are funded by a coalition of US organizations that has also called on President Obama to take decisive action against Iceland’s whalers by blocking imports of fish from Icelandic companies tied to whaling.

The organizations are urging seafood buyers not to do business with the giant Icelandic seafood company HB Grandi, which is controlled by the whaling and investment company Hvalur hf. Hvalur plans to kill 770 endangered fin whales over the next five years and sell the meat and blubber to Japan, where they are rendered into pet food or sold for human consumption. Various businesses linked to Hvalur are exhibiting at the Seafood Expo, including HB Grandi and several of its subsidiaries.

In addition to the transit advertisements, the coalition has written to major US wholesalers and retailers that source Icelandic seafood, urging them to audit their supply chain in order to reassure the public that they are not buying fish from companies linked to whaling.

Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute, explains “ten years of US diplomacy have done nothing to convince Iceland to give up whaling; instead, both killing and exports have increased. Only economic sanctions will convince Iceland to get out of the whaling business.”

Bringing our message to the Seafood Expo will help us persuade American companies not to do business with Iceland’s whalers.”

Elizabeth Hogan, US oceans and wildlife campaign manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals said, “During this critical time, the Obama Administration must take action by issuing targeted trade sanctions against Icelandic companies that hunt whales. Iceland’s increased whaling causes extreme suffering for large numbers of fin and minke whales and threatens the sustainability of these already vulnerable populations. Only by implementing meaningful sanctions will the US send a clear message opposing illegal hunting of the world’s wildlife.”

Phil Kline, senior ocean campaigner for Greenpeace USA said: "Americans would be appalled to learn that the dollars they spent on a fish fillet are lining the pockets of the people responsible for Iceland's whaling. Now is the time for President Obama to impose economic sanctions on Icelandic companies directly linked to whaling. The US policy should be no trade with corporate whalers."

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America (WDC), said, "Fish is meant to be a brain food: surely it's a no-brainer to avoid fish linked to Icelandic whalers? WDC calls on US fish buyers and consumers to make a positive choice and avoid putting money into the whalers’ pocket."

Susan Millward, AWI (202) 446 2123
Carla Pisarro, WSPA (646) 783 2210
Phil Kline, Greenpeace (202) 319 2402
Regina Asmutis-Silvia, WDC (508) 451 3853


Photographs available on request

Editor’s notes

Iceland is one of only three nations that continue to engage in commercial whaling, in defiance of a moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982. Iceland has increased its self-allocated whaling quotas in recent years and, in December 2013, announced a five year block quota that could result in the deaths of nearly 2,000 whales, including 770 endangered fin whales.

According to a 2012 poll by the Benenson Strategy Group, 86 percent of the American public believes that America has a moral obligation to protect endangered or threatened species, and 77 percent oppose commercial whaling. A further 66 percent of respondents said that they would be willing to stop buying products from companies engaged in commercial whaling.1

In July 2011, the secretary of commerce certified Iceland for undermining the IWC’s commercial whaling moratorium. This certification, pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act, led President Obama to issue presidential directives in September 2011 that imposed a series of punitive diplomatic measures against Iceland that remain in force.

On February 6, 2014, the secretary of interior certified Iceland under the Pelly Amendment for undermining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by exporting the products of protected whales. President Obama has 60 days to decide whether to impose additional measures on Iceland, including economic sanctions against companies linked to whaling, such as HB Grandi.

HB Grandi, one of Iceland’s largest seafood companies, plays a very active role in Iceland’s whaling industry, both promoting whaling and providing its facilities for the processing of endangered fin whale meat for the export market. In 2013, 134 endangered fin whales were killed by the Icelandic whaling company Hvalur, and cut and packed at an HB Grandi facility in Akranes, Iceland. HB Grandi’s chairman, Kristján Loftsson, is both the CEO and a lead shareholder of Hvalur hf. 

Animal protection and conservation organizations are calling on US retailers to conduct an audit of their seafood supply chains in order to guarantee to the US public that these retailers do not source seafood from individuals, vessels or companies linked to whaling—including fish from third party agents and/or processors.

1. Benenson Strategy Group. (April 2012). Research on attitudes toward commercial whaling. Washington, DC: International Fund for Animal Welfare. The margin of error was ± 3.5% at the 95% confidence value.

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