Iceland Announces Plans to Resume Whaling

Iceland announced in April that it plans to renew whaling under the same pretense as Japan — i.e. that the whaling will be for research. Under the terms of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, the International Whaling Commission allow its members to kill as many whales as it wants for research purposes.

Iceland says it plans to catch 100 minke whales, 100 fin whales, and 50 sei whales over two years, beginning sometime in 2003 or 2004.

Along with Japan, it would join Norway — which is exempt from the commercial whaling ban and never stopped commercial whaling — as the only three countries killing significant numbers of whales.

Iceland could also begin straightforward commercial whaling at any time, although it says that it will not do so until at least 2006. Iceland left the IWC in 1992, and was readmitted by just a single vote in 2002 (and even then, only because the Swedish represenative to the IWC misunderstood a procedural challenge that allowed the vote to take place). As part of its readmission, it was also allowed to lodge an objection to the 1986 moratorium which, along with Norway, renders it exempt from the moratorium.

Iceland also rejects portions of a number of conventions that deal with whales. It joined CITES in 2000, but objected to the ban on trade in the blue whale. It also objects to the listing of the Northern right whale under the Berne Convention, of which it is also a party. Both objections mean that Iceland is not bound by the terms of those conventions as they apply to those species.

Iceland has apparently worked out a deal with Japan to accept whale products from Iceland, without which there would not be a market for the number of whales Iceland is considering killing.


Iceland’s whale hunting plans arouse suspicions. Reuters, April 5, 2003.

Iceland bids to resume whaling. The BBC, April 3, 2003.

Iceland Plans to Catch Hundreds of Large Whales. Environmental News Service, April 4, 2003.

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