In August, Iceland resumed limited whaling for “scientific” purposes.
At this summer’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission, Iceland had floated a proposal that would have allowed it to kill more than 200 whales annually for scientific research purposes along the same lines as Japan’s current whaling efforts.
That proposal was soundly rejected. However, when Iceland rejoined the International Whaling Commission a couple years ago, it stipulated that it reserved the right to pursue small-scale scientific research whaling. Coming off the defeat of its proposal for scientific whaling, Iceland informed IWC members in August that it would kill 38 minke whales as part of its research efforts.
The move was widely condemned in anti-whaling nations. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, for example, said of the move,
We’re extremely disappointed with Iceland’s decision to begin a lethal research whaling program, which anticipates taking 38 minke whales. Although the program is technically legal under the Whaling Convention, we’ve said many times that lethal research on whales is not necessary and the needed scientific data can be obtained by well-established, non-lethal means.
The taking of whales by Iceland will likely trigger a review by the Department of Commerce of Iceland’s lethal scientific whaling process program for possible certification under the Pelly Amendment.
Under the Pelly Amendment, a finding that Iceland’s scientific whaling program is undermining international conservation efforts aimed at sustaining the population of minke whales could result in bans on the importation of goods from Iceland (don’t hold your breath for that to happen, however).
Iceland’s representative to the International Whaling Commission, Stefan Asmundsson, told the Associated Press that his country expected to encounter a lot of opposition to its resumption of whaling,
We knew beforehand there would be countries who would object and we knew that this research was going to cost us a lot of money to carry out. Regardless of these facts, we believe that it is so important that we simply cannot afford not to do it.
There has been some talk of consumer boycotts of products from Iceland, but polls within that country suggest that upwards of two-thirds of the people there support the resumption of whaling.
This could be the precursor to something even bigger. Many observers did not expect Iceland to resume whaling at all until after 2006, when Iceland has said it reserves the right to resume commercial whaling.
If Iceland does decide to resume whaling in 2006, the anti-whaling forces in the IWC will have won a pyrrhic victory. They will have kept the IWC on record as opposing any resumption of commercial whaling, while pushing Iceland and potentially other countries to resume whaling outside of the IWC’s jurisdiction and oversight.