Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK116, PM CALLS ICELANDIC WHALING AN EXPERIMENT, SIGNALING END TO
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|07REYKJAVIK116||2007-04-18 15:03||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
VZCZCXYZ0015 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHRK #0116/01 1081520 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 181520Z APR 07 FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3259 RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0335 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0023 RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0296
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000116 SIPDIS SIPDIS SENSITIVE STATE FOR EUR/NB JMAHER AND OES JFIELD USDOC FOR NOAA/NMFS WHOGARTH AND JMCCARTY COPENHAGEN FOR ESTH HUB E.O.12958: N/A TAGS: SENV EFIS IWC IC SUBJECT: PM CALLS ICELANDIC WHALING AN EXPERIMENT, SIGNALING END TO COMMERCIAL QUOTAS REFS: A) 06 Reykjavik 407 B) 06 Reykjavik 400 C) 06 Reykjavik 388 ¶1. (SBU). Summary: The Icelandic government is publicly backing away from its October 2006 decision to reestablish commercial whaling. The outspokenness of prominent business figures -- worried about the image of Iceland --coupled with international pressure to stop whaling seems to be having an effect on the government's thinking. The lack of a market for fin whale meat is adding to the growing public sentiment that although whaling is still an Icelandic sovereign right, it's a "stupid idea." A jubilant environmentalist told post "we are winning the fight" and expects that the commercial whaling quota will not be renewed after this whaling season. He is pushing for Iceland's commissioner to make this announcement at the upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting, conveniently slated for after the parliamentary elections in May 2007. End Summary. ¶2. (SBU) In October 2006, the Government of Iceland decided to allow commercial whaling again, issuing a quota for nine fin whales and 30 minkes, of which seven fins and one minke have been killed (Ref C). In his most recent public comments on the issue, Prime Minister Geir Haarde said during an April 16 interview with Reuters that, "what happened last year was an experiment." Haarde said a number of factors, including global public opinion, the negative effect on tourism and especially whether there is a market for whale meat, would all have to be considered before a new decision is made. ¶3. (SBU) This echoed what Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdottir said at the Federation of Icelandic Trade (an influential lobby group) on February 16; although Sverrisdottir is convinced that whaling by Iceland is justified, she could not disregard the warnings that have been raised about possible negative impact of whaling on Icelandic commercial interests. She further commented that the GOI would review carefully the impact commercial whaling would have on the nation's image and business interests before any decision will be taken on further whaling. Minister of Fisheries Einar Gudfinnsson continues to zealously defend commercial whaling in the media but has conceded that if there is no market for whale products then commercial whaling is effectively over. ----------------------------------------- Business Community Loudly Opposes Whaling ----------------------------------------- ¶4. (SBU) Since the October decision, the business community has protested that the decision will harm Iceland commercially by hurting Iceland's image. The Chairman of the Whale Watching Association, a strong influence in the tourism sector, said, "This is a direct strike against the tourist industry in Iceland...killing large whales will have a very stark image abroad." At the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on February 7, whaling became the unscheduled main issue of discussion. Harsh criticism came from two of the most powerful businessmen in Iceland, Jon Asgeir Johannesson of Baugur Group and Lydur Gudmundsson of Exista investment firm. --------------------- Fin Whale Meat Unsold --------------------- ¶5. (SBU). The media reports that the meat from the seven fin whales killed last fall has not been sold and is sitting in storage. Speculation is that tests for the meat's mercury and chemical content have not been finished and the Environment and Food Agency of Iceland was unable to confirm to post when the results would be released. Iceland's Chief Veterinarian told us that the procedures to actually export the meat are not clear and this further complicated the matter. ----------------------------------- Environmentalist Cautiously Hopeful ----------------------------------- ¶6. (SBU). Environmentalist Arni Finnsson told Econoff on April 18 that the Prime Minister's remarks to foreign media clearly indicated the Icelandic government was ready to change its position on commercial whaling and not reissue the commercial quota. Finnsson said public perception is changing and cited a March 22 Gallup poll his NGO commissioned which found 40 percent of the public unhappy with commercial whaling. He summarized the public's attitude as whaling remains a sovereign right but without economic justification it is a "stupid idea" to pursue. Finnsson, while caveating by knocking his knuckles on the wood table, said "we are winning the fight" against further whaling in Iceland. He believes the commercial quota will not be renewed after expiration in August but that the decision on this season's whaling will not be rescinded. ¶7. (SBU) Finnsson shared his desire that Iceland make a public announcement on not renewing the commercial quota at the upcoming International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Anchorage. He called it a win-win for Iceland to make such an announcement under the media spotlight and asked that our IWC Commissioner suggest this idea to the Icelandic Ambassador in Washington beforehand. ¶8. (SBU) Comment: We agree with Finnsson that unless the fin whale meat can be sold at a profit it is unlikely the government will renew the commercial quota. By timing an announcement of this decision at the IWC meeting, which occurs two weeks after parliamentary elections here, the GOI would avoid any question of whaling influencing the elections. CAMPBELL