Despite news of the hunt receiving widespread international opposition from environmentalists, Iceland's tourism industry and major firms that purchase Icelandic products, as well as from the governments of United States, Germany, Britain, France, Finland and Sweden (1), the government seems paralysed.
"Iceland's government has fallen asleep on the whaling issue", said Greenpeace International's whale campaign coordinator Sara Holden. "Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Fisheries Minister Jón Bjarnason are squandering a chance to save Iceland's environmental and international reputation as well as its eligibility for joining the EU".
Whaling and EU membership are incompatible - the EU is likely to request that Iceland end whaling, as on of the conditions of accession. Iceland's government is currently asking the country's lawmakers to back moves towards joining the European Union, and according to opinion polls carried out by an Icelandic newspaper earlier this month(2), the majority of people want EU accession negotiations to commence.
In February, Greenpeace International Executive Director Gerd Leipold wrote to the Icelandic interim government (3), outlining how whaling is not an answer to Iceland's economic woes, and pointing out how even small increase in tourists going to Iceland for whale watching will create and secure more jobs and more money than whaling (4).
Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.
Other contacts: Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International Media (in Ireland) +353 87 2207023,
Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Project Coordinator, +31615007406
Notes: (1) Iceland to allow whaling in 2009, Feb 18 2009 http://uk.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUKTRE51H5MF20090218
(4) Last year about 115,000 people went whale watching in Iceland. Over 20% of these stated whale watching as an important reason for coming to Iceland, spending millions of US$ in revenue in the process. A further 115,000 people have signed a pledge stating that they will consider visiting Iceland if Iceland stops whaling. Source: Icelandic tourism