New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Conservation Minister Chris Carter yesterday joined other countries and conservation groups in criticising Iceland’s announcement it planned to begin hunting whales for so-called scientific purposes.
Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries said Iceland planned to hunt 38 minke whales for scientific purposes beginning this month.
"This is disingenuous. There is no justification for any country to carry out a lethal whaling programme in the interests of science when modern non-lethal research techniques can generate all the information required by the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee," the ministers said.
"We strongly urge the Iceland Government to reconsider."
Iceland’s proposals for so-called scientific whaling had been strongly criticised by members of the scientific committee at the Berlin meeting of the IWC in June.
Iceland withdrew from the IWC in 1992 but sought to rejoin last year, at the same time entering a reservation to the commercial whaling ban which could mean it wished to have the option to commence whaling, the ministers said.
The Government thought Iceland’s reservation was unlawful and prohibited by international law and had said so in a formal notification.
"We are worried that Iceland’s so-called scientific whaling programme is a precursor to the resumption of commercial whaling and that they will follow Japan’s lead and sell the products of the hunt on the commercial market," the ministers said.
The New Zealand Government strongly supports the moratorium banning whaling.
Iceland’s original proposal covered 100 minkes, 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales. Iceland said its new quota of 38 minkes was "clearly a minimalist approach" that "shows Iceland’s willingness to be constructive and compromise when it comes to whaling issues.
In the United States and abroad, response drew similar reactions to the announcement from conservation groups and other governments.
"We oppose it – we’re disappointed," said Rolland Schmitten, the US delegate to the International Whaling Commission.
"It’s not relevant science, it’s not necessary."
British Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw said the Government regarded Iceland’s move as unnecessary.
"Iceland’s claim that data are needed on the amount of fish that whales eat is wholly unjustified," he said.
Japan, one of the few countries still hunting whales, welcomed Iceland’s announcement.
Japan kills hundreds of whales annually for "research", but critics say the hunt is commercial whaling in disguise.
Meat from the animals is sold in supermarkets and restaurants.