The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) takes exception to comments included in recent media reports characterizing hybrid whales as neither important nor protected under law. Although “Whale 22”—the whale killed last week by Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf—appears to be a hybrid blue-fin whale, as recently reported by Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, this whale is still highly protected.
The blue whale is listed as a “Protection Stock” by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which means that commercial whaling on this species is prohibited. (See paragraph 10(c) of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW)). Iceland holds no special exemption from this provision. As Iceland did when its whalers killed a blue-fin hybrid whale in 2013, the country must report this kill as an infraction to the IWC.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibits international trade for primarily commercial purposes in species listed on its Appendix I. These include fin and blue whales. CITES takes a precautionary approach to the management of hybrids of species listed in its appendices. (See CITES Res. Conf. 10.17 (Rev. CoP14) on animal hybrids)). A blue-fin hybrid must be treated as both an Appendix I fin whale and an Appendix I blue whale.
Iceland is the only CITES party that holds a reservation exempting it from the Appendix I listing of both blue whales and fin whales. Even though Whale 22 has been determined by DNA analysis to be a blue-fin hybrid whale (with a fin whale father and a blue whale mother), Iceland can export products from its recent whale kill, but all other CITES members are barred from buying them. Among the members that would be prohibited from buying products sourced from Whale 22 are Iceland’s regular whale-trading partners, Norway and Japan.
AWI and other organizations are calling on Icelandic government authorities such as MAST and Fiskistofa to immediately ensure that all products from Whale 22 are isolated and not allowed to be processed for export or domestic use.
We also note that this incident underscores the problems inherent with commercial whaling, such as the lack of independent monitoring, control and surveillance.
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org