Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture of Iceland, has expressed disappointment with the Pelly Amendment certification of Iceland by the US Department of Interior due to Iceland‘s international trade in whale products.
The US authorities base their certification on the assertion that Iceland‘s international trade in whale products diminishes the effectiveness of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In this regard it is important to point out that Iceland‘s international trade in whale products is in accordance with Iceland´s international legal obligations. This is due to the fact that Iceland has made reservations with respect to the CITES Appendices listings of fin and minke whales.
Any Party to CITES may make such reservations and will accordingly not be bound by the provisions of the Convention relating to trade in the relevant species listed in the Appendices. Numerous Parties have made such reservations regarding one or more species listed in the Appendices. As of 9 October 2013, 44 Parties out of the 179 Parties to the Convention had made one or more such reservations.
Furthermore the US authorities state that Iceland‘s representation that its trade pursuant to those reservations is not detrimental to the survival of the affected whale species lacks an adequate scientific foundation and thus its trade pursuant to those reservations diminishes the effectiveness of CITES.
This assertion is not correct as Icelandic whaling has a sound scientific basis. The catch levels are based on assessments conducted within the Scientific Committees of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), applying a very precautionary approach, and there can be no doubt that they are sustainable. The annual Icelandic quota of common minke whales is 216 from a stock of approximately 70,000 animals and the annual quota of fin whales is 154 from a stock of approximately 20,000 animals. Fin whales are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN global list solely because of their poor status in the Southern Hemisphere. There is no interchange between fin whale stocks from the two hemispheres and they have even been assigned a seperate sub-species status. The status of fin whales in the North Atlantic is much better and the stock does not qualify for any of the endangered categories (“Vulnerable”, “Endangered” or “Critically Endangered”) in the European regional IUCN list.
Finally, it should be noted that the US authorities are not consistent when they criticize Iceland for its fin whale hunting on the one hand and ask for the support of Iceland and other Member States of the International Whaling Commission for their bowhead whaling off Alaska on the other hand. Iceland has supported the US bowhead whaling because it is sustainable. However, the Icelandic fin whale hunting is no less sustainable than the US bowhead whaling.