If the initial reaction within the Icelandic media to yesterday’s announcement from the White House outlining a range of sanctions against Iceland for its whaling is anything to go by, Iceland is taking President Obama’s words – and underlying tone – very seriously indeed. The website of Iceland’s National Broadcasting Service, the Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) carries an article with the headline “Whaling spoils cooperation with the US” is echoed by Visir’s “Obama wants to revise cooperation with Iceland in the light of whaling” and the News of Iceland website which proclaims that President Obama wants Iceland to follow the US’ example and move from whaling to whale watching.
These articles suggest that the US government’s announcement has been greeted with some nervousness within Iceland. And that can only be a good thing because, as everyone knows, to be meaningful and lasting, change has to come from within.
The wind of change appears to be blowing also within the Icelandic parliament, the Althingi, where nine cross-party MPs have called upon the government to review whether or not it is in Iceland’s interest to continue whaling.
Their proposal is specifically directed to Iceland’s Finance Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, asking him to examine “economic and business interests, the interests of the fishing industry, and the tourist industry” and also to factor in the negative impact of whaling upon “Iceland’s position on the international stage and its relations with other countries.”
I strongly believe that the vast majority of Icelanders do not want the bad publicity or soured international and diplomatic relations associated with commercial whaling and would far rather see Iceland linked with positives such as its highly successful whale watching industry (which attracts a third of all visitors) not to mention its starkly beautiful landscape and wildlife. Add your voice to our campaign to stop Icelandic whale products passing through EU ports.