Agencies directed to take actions to encourage Iceland to change whaling policy

September 15, 2011

Today, in a report to Congress, the President concurred with the Secretary of Commerce's recommendations and directed federal agencies to take actions to encourage Iceland to change its whaling policy.

In July, then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, in line with requirements under the Pelly Amendment of the Fishermen’s Protective Act, issued a certification stating that Iceland’s policy of permitting its nationals to engage in commercial whaling and export of endangered fin whale meat is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission conservation program. The IWC adopted a commercial whaling moratorium in 1982.

“Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable,” said Monica Medina, U.S. commissioner for the IWC. “The actions the Obama Administration is now taking are designed to support the conservation of the world’s whale populations and convince Iceland to stop hunting whales.”

A detailed list of the actions directed by President Obama can be found here.

In 2004, the Commerce Department certified Iceland as a country that is undermining the effectiveness of the IWC through its lethal scientific research whaling. In 2006, the Commerce Department retained Iceland’s certification for its commercial whaling. Secretary Locke’s new certification this year recommended that the President direct U.S. officials and agencies to undertake a number of stronger diplomatic actions in response to Iceland’s commercial whaling activities, and evaluate further potential responses to Iceland’s harvest of whales outside of IWC control.

The United States continues to support the moratorium on commercial whaling and believes that the IWC should address conservation issues as a priority, as the threat to whales has increased since the commission was first established in 1946. The Department of Commerce will immediately begin to implement the President’s directives and continue to examine other options for responding to Iceland’s whaling practices.

The Pelly Amendment requires the President to report to Congress on any action he takes in response to Secretary Locke’s July certification within 60 days.

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