A pro-whaling lobby accused environmental group Greenpeace on Monday of using "mafia tactics" in a campaign to promote tourism to Iceland if Reykjavik halts whale hunts.
The Norwegian-based High North Alliance said Greenpeace was bullying Iceland by asking people around the world to sign up on the Internet to say they "would seriously consider" a vacation in Iceland on condition that Reykjavik stops whaling.
"These are mafia tactics. The Greenpeace people must have been studying ‘The Godfather’," said Rune Froevik of the Alliance, which represents whalers and coastal communities in the Arctic from Alaska to Greenland.
"Greenpeace is not a tour operator," he told Reuters.
Iceland resumed whaling last month after a 14-year break, ignoring an international moratorium and prompting criticism from many foreign governments.
Reykjavik argues that minke whales are plentiful in the North Atlantic and a resource to be exploited like cod. It has harpooned about half a planned catch of 38 whales for what it calls scientific research.
Greenpeace said that nearly 3,500 people had signed up as of Monday to its campaign to "help Iceland choose eco-tourism, not whaling," by sending e-mails to the Icelandic government expressing interest in visiting Iceland if it halts whaling.
Frode Pleym, aboard the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Reykjavik, dismissed Froevik’s suggestions that the tourism campaign launched on Friday involved a veiled boycott threat.
"We want to show that there is a lot of potential in eco-tourism in Iceland," he said. "We’re not calling for a boycott in any way."
Icelandic tourism officials say they are worried that the resumption of whaling will lead to big visitor cancellations. But Froevik said there was scant evidence Norway’s decision to resume commercial whaling a decade ago had had a significant economic impact.