Trade in whale products by Iceland and Norway escalates

Norway and Japan are doing all they can to escalate commercial whaling

Conservation and animal welfare organisations have confirmed that Iceland had shipped more than 1,500 tons of Icelandic fin whale meat to Japan in July 2016. This species is actually still very much under threat.

This announcement was made at the start of the 17th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg last week.

From July to September 2016, conservationists from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), OceanCare, Pro Wildlife, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) tracked a vessel named Winter Bay from Hafnarfjordur in Iceland to Osaka in Japan. They suspected that it was transporting the meat of endangered fin whales. This suspicion was confirmed after they checked the Hagstofa (Icelandic trade database) and an Icelandic media report.

Last year, the same vessel had also transported 1,800 tonnes of fin whale meat to Japan.

The CITES Secretariat has proposed that a decision related to the conservation of whales – Decision 14.81 on Great Whales – be rescinded. However, this could lead to the premature reclassification of the protection status of many whale species and weaken the ban on the trade in whale products.

Programme Director at WDC Astrid Fuchs said that it was incomprehensible that CITES would consider removing the protection when the trade in whale products by Iceland, Japan and Norway has escalated, despite the trade ban and moratorium on commercial whaling.

Parties to CITES must ensure that Decision 14.81 is retained as is,” said Sigrid Lüber, President of OceanCare. “Should this decision be rescinded, we could eventually see a return to the days when international trade fuelled an out-of-control whaling industry.

In mid-September, a company in Norway received an export permit to ship up to 195 metric tons of minke whale meat to Japan. This would be the largest single Norwegian shipment of whale meat since the international ban on whaling came into effect 30 years ago.

Susan Millward, Managing Director of AWI, expressed concern: “Norway and Japan are doing all they can to escalate commercial whaling and trade in whale products. CITES must support the IWC moratorium, and address the issue of whale trade under reservation.

Iceland, Norway and Japan have appealed against the ban on the trade in fin whale and minke whale products, and currently utilise their individual countries’ reservation to the listing to continue trading among one another.

There’s no excuse for Iceland to continue to slaughter whales in violation of the 30-year old commercial whaling moratorium agreed to by the International Whaling Commission. The international community must now step in,” said Clare Perry, head of EIA’s Oceans Campaign.