NGOs take campaign against fin whaling to Boston Seafood EXPO

BOSTON SEAFOOD EXPO. Members of the “Don’t Buy from Icelandic Whalers” coalition have affirmed that their campaign will continue until Iceland permanently ends commercial whaling and international trading of whale products, despite recent news that Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf is suspending its summer hunt of endangered fin whales. The coalition encourages supermarket and food service representatives to avoid purchasing seafood from Icelandic companies tied to whaling.

“For a second straight year, endangered fin whales will get a reprieve from Iceland’s harpoons, but we urge companies to use their buying power to ensure Iceland stops killing whales permanently,” said Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Just weeks before the Seafood Expo, One Source Proteins—a seafood sourcing and logistics company—reported to the coalition that it discontinued the importation of products from Friosur, S.A. Chile, a subsidiary of HB Grandi, Iceland’s leading seafood company. HB Grandi (which is exhibiting at the Seafood Expo) is tied to whaling through its chairman, Kristján Loftsson, who is also executive director of Hvalur hf. One Source Proteins also indicated that it does not support commercial whaling and trade in whale products and requires that its suppliers not engage in such activities.

“Our coalition commends One Source Proteins for its decision to cease purchasing seafood products from Icelandic whalers and for opposing commercial whaling,” said DJ Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “It joins a growing list of companies that have, through their purchasing choices, demonstrated that commercial whaling is unacceptable.”

“Whaling is a cruel practice that should no longer be tolerated,” stated Elizabeth Hogan, campaign manager for Oceans & Wildlife at World Animal Protection. “If all food retailers break their ties to companies linked to Icelandic whaling, commercial killing of whales by Icelandic whalers will eventually end.”

Iceland is one of only three nations that continue to engage in commercial whaling and international trade in whale products, in defiance of international law. In 2015, Hvalur killed 155 endangered fin whales, the highest number since the global commercial whaling moratorium took effect in 1986. Hvalur is responsible for the deaths of more than 700 endangered fin whales since 2006 and has shipped over 7,200 metric tons of fin whale products to Japan, including over 3,300 metric tons in the past two years alone.

“Endangered fin whales are safe for a second consecutive year but the temporary cessation of fin whaling must become permanent,” stated Clare Perry, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) Oceans Campaign leader. “There is simply no reason for the Icelandic government to continue to countenance this slaughter, which profits a very few individuals at the expense of Iceland’s international reputation and potentially its commercial fishing industry.”

Although Hvalur’s suspension of its summer fin whale hunt is positive news for whales, the coalition will continue to monitor the situation, as fin whaling has been suspended in the past, only to resume. In addition, while the fin whale hunt has been cancelled, the killing of minke whales will continue. Based on a government quota, as many as 264 minke whales could be killed in Iceland this year thereby undermining the commercial whaling moratorium. A significant percentage of the meat from the kills is served to Iceland’s tourists, the largest proportion of whom are from the United States and the United Kingdom.   

"Hvalur's decision not to kill endangered fin whales is a welcome development in the decades-old effort to finally end commercial whaling,” said Scott Leonard of the Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program (NMMCP). “This won’t be achieved until minke whaling ends, as well. Tourists, simply by refusing to eat whale meat, can help end the cruelty of all whaling in Iceland.”

“Consumers have the power to end commercial whaling in Iceland through their purchasing decisions,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America (WDC-NA). “Commercial whaling is cruel, unprofitable, harms the environment, and is no more sustainable than deforestation in the Amazon."

“Marine species in the world’s ocean are being devastated by unsustainable fishing operations said Sigrid Lueber, OceanCare president. “Consuming seafood from any company with ties to whaling is particularly egregious. Informed choices are therefore crucial.”

The coalition website, www.DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com, identifies which North American businesses purchase seafood from companies linked to Hvalur, and provides information for consumers about how to take action against Icelandic whaling. The coalition is comprised of several organizations, including AWI, CarbonFix International, Cetacean Society International, Dolphin Connection, EIA, Greenpeace USA, the International Marine Mammal Program of the Earth Island Institute, NMMCP, NRDC, OceanCare, WDC-NA, the Whaleman Foundation and World Animal Protection.

 For more information on the campaign, visit www.DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com