The Department of the Interior has certified to President Obama under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967 that Iceland's international trade in whale meat and products diminishes the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006 and since then has exported whale meat and products despite a ban on international commercial trade. As provided under the Pelly Amendment, within 60 days following certification by the Secretary the President will determine what actions are appropriate in response to the certification.
"Just 25 years ago, commercial whaling had nearly driven whales to extinction, but thanks to a global effort to conserve whale stocks and end over-harvesting, several whale species have begun to recover," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. "Iceland's whaling activities undermine these worldwide efforts to conserve whales."
Hvalur, the sole Icelandic company engaged in harvesting fin whales, resumed fin whale hunting in 2013, following a two-year hiatus due to market decline in Japan following the 2011 earthquake. The 2013 whaling season ran from mid-June until the end of September with a total of 134 fin whales killed. Iceland sets its own catch quotas for commercial whaling and has significantly increased those quotas over the last several years. For example, in 2006, the annual quota was set at just nine fin whales, while the 2013 annual quota authorized the hunting of up to 184 fin whales.
Iceland has recently announced a new five-year quota for fin whales, to begin with the 2014 whaling season, which will allow a total of up to 770 fin whales to be hunted in the next five years. Fin whales are hunted solely for export to the Japanese market.
From 2008 to 2012, trade reports show that more than 1.6 million kilograms of fin whale meat and products were exported from Iceland to Japan. Fin whales are listed in Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits trade for primarily commercial purposes.
Iceland also does not follow the procedure laid out by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to assess sustainable catch levels. The IWC was established to manage whaling activities for the conservation of whale populations and is viewed as the global body with expertise for the management of whale stocks.
In July 2011, then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke certified under Pelly that the commercial whaling activities by Icelandic nationals are undermining the effectiveness of the IWC conservation program. In response to that certification, the President directed federal agencies to undertake a number of diplomatic actions to encourage Iceland to change its whaling policy.
CITES is an international agreement signed by 179 nations that is designed to control and regulate international trade in certain listed animal and plant species. Approximately 35,000 species currently benefit from CITES protection. For additional information on CITES, please refer to http://www.fws.gov/international/cites/how-cites-works.html.
For additional information on the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967, please refer to http://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/pelly-amendment.html.