Conservation, Animal Protection Groups Call for Trade Sanctions Against Icelandic Companies Linked to Whaling

Request Follows Massive Exports of Whale Products to Japan from Iceland

Washington, DC—A coalition of international animal protection and conservation organizations has urgently asked the Obama administration to impose economic sanctions against Icelandic companies with corporate ties to the commercial whaling industry.

This request, stated in a letter delivered to President Obama today, follows recent revelations that Hvalur hf, an Icelandic whaling company, is shipping an estimated 1,800 metric tons of whale products to Japan in defiance of an international ban on such trade. Since Iceland resumed whaling in 2006, Hvalur hf has shipped endangered fin whale meat and blubber to Japan on 28 separate occasions, totaling more than 7,200 metric tons.

The coalition is asking the administration to take action under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act, a U.S. law that authorizes the imposition of trade sanctions to compel compliance with international conservation agreements. In September 2011 and again in April 2014, President Obama decided against imposing targeted trade sanctions under the Pelly Amendment to address Iceland’s commercial whaling, opting instead to attempt diplomatic pressure to bring about an end to Iceland’s whaling and trade in whale products.

“Unfortunately, the diplomatic measures taken against Iceland have failed to deter Iceland from whaling and from conducting trade in whale products,” said Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute. “President Obama must impose trade sanctions against Icelandic whaling interests now.”

“Without trade sanctions, whaling-linked companies importing seafood and other goods into the U.S. continue to rake in profits without consequence, while at the same time, the whalers themselves laugh all the way to the bank as they continue their cruel trade unhindered," said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America.

"Iceland is going to continue defying international bans until there is economic pressure to stop," said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's time for the U.S. to flex its economic muscle and impose targeted trade sanctions against companies doing business in the United States that are tied to whaling in Iceland."

“Over the past year, President Obama has made an unprecedented commitment to end illegal wildlife trade. As Iceland continues to escalate its trade in endangered fin whale products, it is important that the administration hold Iceland accountable for

its ​undermining of international law,” said Leigh Henry, senior policy advisor for Wildlife Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund.

The coalition is strongly urging the government to impose targeted trade sanctions against Icelandic companies linked to Hvalur hf. Among the companies identified are Hampiðjan, one of the largest global fishing gear suppliers, and HB Grandi, one of Iceland's largest seafood export companies. Hampiðjan, which has a subsidiary in the United States, produces ropes used to hunt fin whales. HB Grandi, which exports fish to the United States, owns facilities that have been used to process whale meat for export, and the company’s chairman, Kristján Loftsson, is also the CEO of Hvalur hf.

“In 2015, it’s business as usual for Icelandic fin whalers: kill endangered fin whales and ship the meat to Japan. Obviously the current U.S. diplomatic sanctions are not working. If the Obama administration is serious about ending Iceland's commercial whaling, it's time to play hardball and impose targeted economic sanctions immediately,” said Phil Kline, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA.

Amy Zets, policy analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency stated, "This renegade whaling and international trade must stop. It's time to try another tool in the toolbox. President Obama should enact targeted sanctions on Icelandic companies associated with whaling."

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