Whale Watching Groups Oppose Possible Sanctions - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Whale Watching Groups Oppose Possible Sanctions

Published July 22, 2011

Whale watching groups in Iceland disagree with the idea of imposing sanctions against Iceland, due to its hunting of endangered fin whales, as sources indicate the US might do.
One of our top stories yesterday was a recent Associated Press report stating that the Obama administration intends to cite Iceland as an example when announcing a law that gives the US the right to impose sanctions on any country that flouts international animal conservation laws. After the announcement, which is set to happen Wednesday, the US president then has 60 days to decide on sanctions.
The news has caused Minister of Agriculture Jón Bjarnason to scoff at the idea, noting that Iceland hunts less than 200 fin whales out of a total North Atlantic population of around 20,000, while chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Árni Þór Sigurðsson, believes that it is not worth supporting the efforts of one man – Hvalur hf. whaling company owner Kristján Loftsson – when his business hurts Iceland politically and financially.
Now whale watching groups, who have long opposed whale hunting in Iceland, have entered the discussion, and are against any possible sanctions.
Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, director of the Association of Whale Watching, told Vísir that she has encouraged people not to boycott Icelandic products but rather to support whale watching instead.
She does admit, though, that whale hunting has an effect on the tourist business. “We’ve received many questions regarding whale hunting,” she said, “as well as letters from people who say they don’t intend to come and won’t come to Iceland so long as whaling is being practised. We have also received rejections from tourist offices overseas to meet us, due to whaling.”
As it stands, the US government has not taken a decision on sanctions, but is expected to do so within the next two months.

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