Gland, Switzerland - WWF today condemned Iceland's proposal for the resumption of whaling on three species of large whales, including northern minkes and endangered fin and sei whales. Iceland rejoined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in October 2002, following much controversy and a vote that they won by a margin of one. At the time, they stated that after 2006 they would not be bound by the IWC's long-term moratorium on all commercial whaling. Iceland has now sent a proposal for a 'scientific whaling' programme to the IWC, and reports in the Icelandic press indicate the whaling could start in 2003, although this is not yet decided. The plan would allow Iceland to catch 100 fin, 50 sei and 100 northern minke whales each year. "This is a needless proposal based on a lack of scientific necessity or legitimacy," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Endangered Species Programme. "Despite decades of protection, seven of the 13 great whale species remain endangered. WWF urges the Icelandic government to withdraw this plan. Iceland is an important ecotourism destination for whale watching, which generates far more revenue for the people of Iceland than killing endangered whales." Under IWC rules, governments have to submit plans for scientific research whaling in advance to the IWC's Scientific Committee. This committee can only review and comment on the plans. It cannot authorize or veto them as the Whaling Convention allows governments to issue special permits for whaling for scientific research purposes without requiring IWC authorisation. This is not the first time that Iceland has carried out a "scientific" whaling operation in defiance of the international community. After the commercial whaling moratorium came into effect in 1986, Iceland accepted the moratorium but carried out four years of "scientific" whaling, from 1986 to 1989, catching up to 80 fin and up to 40 sei whales each year. Iceland's Fisheries Minister, Arni Matthiesen, has made no secret that this time, the proposed whaling is also of a commercial nature. He said the most important factor in Iceland's proposed resumption of whaling would be getting agreement from Japan to import its whale products. Iceland's home market is far too small to sell the meat from 250 large whales, although there are widespread reports that minke whale meat is regularly available in Iceland, caught as "by-catch" in fishermen's nets. "If this whaling goes ahead it is clear it is for commercial purposes. For Iceland to go down this path having just worked its way back into the IWC is outrageous," Dr Lieberman added. For further information: Kyla Evans Press Office, WWF International Tel: +41 22 364 9550 E-mail: email@example.com Matthew Davis Endangered Species Programme, WWF International Tel: +44 7768 867272 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Notes to Editors: • Both fin and sei whales are classified as Endangered by IUCN, the World Conservation Union. • The latest IWC population estimates for the North Atlantic populations of these species are uncertain. They are:     • Fin: 27,700 to 82,000 (in the whole North Atlantic)     • Northern minke: 21,600 to 31,400 (Central North Atlantic)     • Sei: 6,100 to 17,700 (Central North Atlantic).