Published April 2, 2014
The White House has issued a new statement on Iceland’s whale hunting, outlining a number of actions the US plans to take in response. Some Icelanders are concerned the matter is heating up, and that whaling could be doing more harm than good.
The White House statement, signed by US President Barack Obama, said that the president was “concerned” about Iceland’s whale hunting, and that he believes the issue should “receive the highest level of attention”. To this end, the US president has issued a number of directives against Iceland.
Many of these directives include monitoring Iceland’s whaling activities and speaking with Icelandic government officials. However, some directives have more bite than others:
(4) the Department of State to re-examine bilateral cooperation projects and, where appropriate, to base U.S. cooperation with Iceland on the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy …
(6) Cabinet secretaries and other senior Administration officials to evaluate the appropriateness of visits to Iceland in light of Iceland’s resumption of fin whaling and ongoing trade in fin whale parts and products …
These directives indicate that diplomatic or trade sanctions could be in the cards for Iceland. Obama is asking that those involved with these directives “make substantive progress implementing the actions outlined above”, giving them six months to report back on developments.
“I believe that continuing focus on Icelandic whaling activities is needed to encourage Iceland to halt commercial whaling and support international conservation efforts,” the US president said. “Just as the United States made the transition from a commercial whaling nation to a whale watching nation, we must enhance our engagement with Iceland to facilitate this change.”
Political scientist Eiríkur Bergmann Einarsson told Vísir that the US government is “starting to tighten the thumbscrews” on whaling, which could have a serious effect on US-Icelandic relations.
Árni Þór Sigurðsson, a Left-Green Party representative for the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, told Vísir as well that whale hunting amounts to “giving up more of our interests for less”.