President Obama decided yesterday to take diplomatic measures against Iceland due to its practice of whaling. Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture says US action is unjustified.
On July 19, the Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified under the Pelly Amendment that Iceland was not abiding by the International Whaling Committee (IWC) moratorium. This gave President Obama until September 17 to decide whether or not to sanction Iceland.
Obama decided not to go so far as to sanction Iceland, but in his message to Congress, he listed six diplomatic measures the US would take to pressure Iceland to stop the practice:
(1) relevant U.S. delegations attending meetings with Icelandic officials and senior Administration officials visiting Iceland to raise U.S. concerns regarding commercial whaling by Icelandic companies and seek ways to halt such action;
(2) Cabinet secretaries to evaluate the appropriateness of visits to Iceland depending on continuation of the current suspension of fin whaling;
(3) the Department of State to examine Arctic cooperation projects, and where appropriate, link U.S. cooperation to the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy and abiding by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
(4) the Departments of Commerce and State to consult with other international actors on efforts to end Icelandic commercial whaling and have Iceland abide by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling;
(5) the Department of State to inform the Government of Iceland that the United States will continue to monitor the activities of Icelandic companies that engage in commercial whaling; and
(6) relevant U.S. agencies to continue to examine other options for responding to continued whaling by Iceland.
Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Patrick Ramage is pleased with Obama’s actions, according to an IFAW press release.
“We are encouraged,” he said. “Engaged U.S. leadership is fundamental to international whale conservation efforts. Today’s moves clearly signal President Obama isn’t prepared to ignore Icelandic efforts to resuscitate whaling and the whale meat trade. That’s good news for whales and the overwhelming majority of Americans across the political spectrum who want to see them protected.”
Meanwhile, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Jón Bjarnason is less than pleased. Not only did he say that the US has no legal or scientific grounds for invoking the Pelly Amendment, but he also criticised the US for being hypocritical.
“The U.S. authorities are not consistent when they criticize Iceland for its fin whale hunting on the one hand and ask for the support of Iceland and other member countries of the International Whaling Commission for their bowhead quota off Alaska on the other hand,” Jon Bjarnason said in a press release from the Ministry. “Scientific information clearly shows that the Icelandic fin whale hunting is no less sustainable than the U.S. bowhead whaling.”