Conservationists Stunned, Iceland to Hunt 250 Whales in the Name of ???Science??

(Reykjavik, Iceland – 7 April 2003) — The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) is stunned by reports that Iceland plans to resume whaling 13 years after its last harpoon was fired. It calls on the Icelandic Government to think again and safeguard its growing whale-watching industry – which generated more than US$6.5 million in industry related sales in 1998 alone.

Iceland has revealed plans to hunt 250 whales a year for “scientific research,” just months after rejoining the International Whaling Commission (IWC – www.iwcoffice.org). If it goes ahead, it will become the third country in the world, after Japan and Norway, to flout an international moratorium on killing whales.

The Icelandic whale hunt would target 100 fin and 50 sei whales, both listed by the World Conservation Union as endangered species, as well as 100 minke whales.

Iceland’s Fisheries Minister, Arni Matthiesen, says that the aim is to collect data on “the impact of whales on the ocean ecosystem.”

Vassili Papastavrou, an IFAW whale biologist, said, “This is commercial whaling in a threadbare disguise. Iceland has not yet formally announced its decision to go ahead, and we urge it to look to the future, which is quite clearly whale-watching rather than whaling. Whales are simply worth more alive than dead.”

Iceland claims it will not resume commercial whaling before 2006, but Minister Matthiesen says several issues need resolving, including the international trade in whale products, currently banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

He said, “The Icelandic market (for whale products) is very small, hence it is a precondition for any whaling around Iceland to be able to export whale products to the Japanese.”

Iceland joined CITES in 2000 but refuses to be bound by its rules on several species, including the highly endangered blue whale. It rejoined the IWC in 2002, controversially making its objection to the whaling ban a condition of its membership.

Join the campaign to protect whales worldwide, visit www.ifaw.org. Your support is urgently needed to make sure that Icelandic whale hunt does not happen, and that more whales do not fall victim to commercial hunting under the guise of ‘science.’

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