President Obama Proposes Diplomatic Action Against Iceland Following WDCS-led Anti-whaling PetitionIn September 2011, two months after the US Secretary of Commerce recommended that the US take strong action against Icelandic whaling, President Obama confirmed the US government's desire to see an end to Iceland's fin whaling by issuing a strongly worded statement warning that it will not hesitate in implementing a range of measures against Iceland if the cruel trade does not stop for good.
The announcement came just before the 60 day deadline set for Obama to make a decision ran out and, whilst the actions do not include the trade sanctions against Iceland recommended by the US Secretary of Commerce (and hoped for by WDCS), the fact that the President has directed his administration to look at possibly withdrawing funding to Iceland for joint projects in the Arctic and to cancel meetings with Icelandic officials, does put pressure on Iceland to take a long hard look at the long term future of its whaling industry.
The US Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, had originally used special political measures (known as the Pelly Amendment) to force a decision on possible trade sanctions by the US government over Icelands unacceptable disregard for the global ban on commercial whaling.
Sanctions still remain a possibility. Whilst Iceland did not undertake any fin whaling this summer, blaming reduced markets in Japan following the tsunami in March, it has given no indication that its fin whaling will end for good. But if Iceland were to resume fin whaling, President Obama has requested an immediate report from his government officials, suggesting that strong economic measures against Iceland by the US could be enforced in the future.
WDCS's efforts - 'Thank you' to all our supporters who contacted the US government
In late 2010, WDCS co-authored an 80+ page petition to the US government that set out how Iceland's whaling (and international trade in whaling products) undermines the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The petition was supported by nineteen other US conservation and animal welfare groups and, in recent weeks, we have collectively rallied hundreds of thousands of people to send emails, faxes and letters to the President calling for sanctions. Although we are disappointed that Iceland is not facing trade sanctions for its fin and minke whaling, we believe our months of effort paid off; the petition and your messages of support reached the President's desk and he took us seriously - you made a big impression and we thank you all for doing that!
Iceland has killed 280 endangered fin whales, and 186 minke whales since it resumed commercial whaling in 2006. The country's overseas shipments of whale products have also increased since 2008, and Iceland has exported more than 1000 tons of whale meat, blubber and oil, worth millions of US dollars, to Japan, Norway and the Faroe Islands, and has even sent illegal shipments of whale products to Latvia and Belarus.
WDCS remains optimistic that strong action by the US will help bring an end to Icelandic whaling and trade, but remember, you can still help us put pressure on Iceland to end its whaling by boycotting restaurants in Iceland that sell whale meat and by refusing to buy fish exported from Iceland that has clear links to the whaling industry - find out more on how you can help us.