Oceana has verified that Icelandic vessels are not complying with the moratorium on commercial whale hunting established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1985. Following many weeks of preparations, the first whaling vessel left its base port in Reykjavik on Wednesday and reached its hunting area, 200 miles SW of Iceland yesterday afternoon.
The Icelandic government has issued licenses to allow the hunting of nine fin whales and 30 minke whales. Fin whales are on the International Conservation Union's "red list" of endangered species and the Icelandic government has already approved and implemented a "scientific hunting" program for minke whales, under which another 29 animals will be killed this season, bringing the total to 161 since 2003.
According to Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe, "The Icelandic government has put itself at the service of the whaling industry by violating the moratorium and sponsoring commercial hunting. They no longer even attempt to use the "scientific hunting" pretext."
Iceland had warned that that it would re-open the commercial hunting season if a revised management system was not implemented. The Iceland Ministry of Fishing justified the violation of the moratorium by arguing that the "catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development." 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. They are hunted so that their meat can be exported to Japan. According to a Gallup poll, 1% of the Icelandic population eats whale meat once a week, and 82% never consumes it.
In its attempt to justify the re-opening of the commercial whale hunting season, the Icelandic government has stated that the cetaceans do not suffer and "are not even aware they are being hunted."
According to Pastor, "the re-opening of the whale hunting season on Iceland's part is a hard blow for the International Whaling Commission. Other countries may follow, thus undermining the moratorium, making it impossible for whales and other large cetaceans to recover, and eventually helping to promote the extinction of one of the world's most endangered species."