FRISCO — Iceland may face trade sanctions after U.S. officials formally declared that the island nation’s whaling is undermining an international ban on commercial trade in whale products.
The declaration by U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell may have been spurred in part by Iceland’s December announcement that commercial whaling will continue for the next five years. As many as 154 endangered fin whales and 229 minke whales could be killed each year under Iceland’s self-allocated quotas which are set to run from 2014 to 2018.
Iceland killed 35 minke whales and 134 fin whales, massive animals second only to blue whales in size, during the 2013 whaling season. Whaling has deep cultural and economic roots in Iceland, and the fishing industry is by far the largest sector of the country’s economy, but wildlife and animal rights advocacy groups say it’s time for Iceland to rethink its whaling activities.
“Killing endangered fin whales is not only brutal, it’s short-sighted. Iceland should not be allowed to ignore the fact that, regardless of some temporary financial reward, this practice is simply unsustainable and cruel,” said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The US must lead global action by imposing strong economic sanctions to end this senseless and illegal practice once and for all,” Heimer said.
Jewell’s declaration specifically said that Iceland’s whaling is undermining the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The declaration starts a 60-day period during which President Barack Obama must decide whether or not to impose economic measures, including trade sanctions, against Iceland under conservation legislation known as the “Pelly Amendment.”