A pivotal moment for commercial whaling

Posted on 22 July 2011    
Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus surfacing.
Endangered fin whale
© Gustavo Ybarra / WWF
Since 1986, there has been an internationally agreed upon moratorium on commercial whaling. This ban, imposed by the intergovernmental International Whaling Commission (IWC) has been hugely important to stabilizing whale populations worldwide. But a few countries have elected to ignore, or find ways around the ban.

Now, the US government is considering imposing sanctions against Iceland under legislation called the “Pelly Amendment.” The sanctions could be invoked if Iceland does not stop killing whales for its commercial whaling program.

What is the U.S. Pelly Amendment?

The U.S. Pelly Amendment connects the whale world to international trade law. It can be invoked to place restrictions on importing products from countries which violate international fishery or endangered or threatened species programs.

Iceland and commercial whaling

Over the life of the moratorium, Iceland has continued whaling commercially in increasingly troubling ways.

● Since 2004 Iceland has killed over 600 whales, ignoring diplomatic efforts to stop commercial whaling.
● In 2009, Iceland increased its annual whaling quotas, including for the endangered fin whale.
● In March 2011, Iceland exported nearly 300 tons of whale products, its largest single shipment since the IWC ban took effect in 1986.

A Turning Point

US President Barak Obama now has 60 days to decide if the US will impose trade sanctions against Iceland.

WWF, along with several other conservation organizations, is strongly urging Mr Obama to pursue sanctions as Iceland has a long history of side-stepping international laws that prohibit commercial whaling and international trade.

Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus surfacing.
Endangered fin whale
© Gustavo Ybarra / WWF Enlarge

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