Oceana reports that the Icelandic government is no longer complying with the moratorium on commercial whale hunting, which is still in effect.
Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, affirms that the Icelandic government has decided to stop complying with the moratorium on commercial whale hunting established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1985, and which is still in effect today. The first of the whaling vessels left its base port in Rejkiavik on Wednesday and reached the hunting area yesterday, after having spent various weeks undergoing preparations. The whaling ship is now 200 miles SW of Iceland, near the Reykjanes Ridge. The Icelandic Ministry for Fisheries has established a quota for itself of 39 whales for the 2006-2007 season.
The Icelandic whaling fleet plans on capturing 30 lesser rorquals (minke whales) and 9 common rorquals (fin whales). This last species is classified as "endangered" and appears on the IUCN's (The World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species.
But according to Oceana, those will not be the only whales hunted by the Icelandic fleet this season. Before deciding to overtly ignore the moratorium, the Icelandic government had already implemented a "scientific hunting" programme for minke whales, under which another 29 animals will be killed this season, added to the 161 specimens captured since 2003. Taking advantage of this legal deceit, Iceland has been challenging the moratorium established by the IWC for three years.
According to marine biologist, Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe, "The Icelandic government has decided to directly put itself at the service of the whaling industry, violating the moratorium and sponsoring commercial hunting. They no longer even attempt to use the "scientific hunting" pretext."
The Ministry for Fisheries justifies this non-compliance of the moratorium by arguing that they had already expressed their reservations about this prohibition, warning that if the International Whaling Commission did not quickly approve a new management procedure for cetaceans (Revised Management Scheme) that would put an end to the moratorium and re-open the commercial hunting season, Iceland would not feel bound to the prohibition and would make their own decisions unilaterally. In fact, the IWC's Scientific Committee, made up of international specialists on cetaceans, has not endorsed Iceland's arguments to re-open the hunting season.
The whales hunted by the Icelandic fleet are not used for consumption in this country; they are hunted so their meat may be exported to Japan. According to a Gallup pole cited by the IFAW organisation, only 1% of the Icelandic population eats whale meat once a week, while the remaining 82% never eats it at all.
Since the beginning of the moratorium 17 years ago, Iceland has created an important tourist industry based on "whale watching," contributing more benefits to the country than commercial whale hunting, and which may come into direct conflict with this industry.
In its attempt to justify the re-opening of the commercial whale hunting season, the Icelandic government has even affirmed that the cetaceans do no suffer and "are not even aware they are being hunted."
According to the Oceana spokesperson, "the re-opening of the whale hunting season on Iceland's part may very well prove to be a hard blow for the International Whaling Commission. Other countries may decide to follow in their footsteps and this will destroy the moratorium, making it impossible for the large cetaceans to recuperate themselves and promoting the extinction of the most endangered species."