Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK122, ICELANDIC WHALING IN FULL SWING WITH 24 FIN WHALES HUNTED
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|09REYKJAVIK122||2009-07-09 16:04||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
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UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000122 STATE FOR OES/OA COMMERCE FOR NMFS SENSITIVE SIPDIS E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: SENV EFIS KSCA PREL IWC ETRD IC SUBJECT: ICELANDIC WHALING IN FULL SWING WITH 24 FIN WHALES HUNTED ¶1. (SBU) Icelandic whalers are taking full advantage of the expanded whaling quotas issued by the former Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinsson and have killed 24 fin whales and 20 minkes to date. (Note: The last time fins were hunted in Iceland was in 2006 when seven were killed. About 40 minkes are hunted each year. End Note.) Gudfinsson had issued a regulation upon his departure from office in January that whaling quotas for the next five years will be directly linked to the recommendations from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute (MRI). Both of Gudfinsson's successors said they would let the regulation stand for at least this year. On June 5, MRI published a report recommending that 200 fin whales and 200 minke whales can be hunted sustainably this year. MRI told Emboff that last year's minke recommendation of 100 whales was increased this year because the stock is considered to be close to pre-exploitation levels. ¶2. (SBU) Staff members of Hvalur, hf, which is the only company in Iceland with the capability to hunt large whales, told Emboff on July 3 that whaling is providing jobs for 150 to 200 people. However, they admitted they are keeping their fingers crossed that there is a market for the meat and said, otherwise "this is a doomed operation." Since minke meat is the only whale meat consumed and sold in Iceland, the fin meat must be exported to another market, such as Japan. In May, Greenpeace and a local environmental group held a press conference which featured a recorded conversation with the Japanese importer of the Icelandic whale meat who stated he would not be importing any meat from Iceland this year. In late June, the Japanese Charge d'Affaires told Emboff that he didn't believe there was a market for the fin meat in Japan. ¶3. (SBU) Charge d'Affaires met with the Minister of Fisheries on July 9 and strongly protested the renewed whaling, particularly the large number of fin whales hunted. CDA reiterated that whaling is an impediment to agricultural and fish exports to the U.S, particularly to environmentally conscious outlets like Whole Foods grocery store, and underscored the Japanese CDA's belief that there is no market for Icelandic whale in Japan. The Minister responded that this was a sovereignty issue and that Iceland is a coastal nation that is using all its marine resources sustainably. He noted his political party is generally against whaling and the government is redoing the country's whaling laws, which date from 1947. He also said the government has tasked the University of Iceland Economic Institute to create a cost and benefits report on whaling, which the Minister expects to use to develop a new whaling policy at the end of this whaling season. Regarding the reported absence of a whale meat market overseas, the Minister said that marketing was a private commercial issue which did not concern the government. ¶4. (SBU) Comment: The apparent lack of a market for fin whale meat does not seem to be affecting the hunt. The Icelandic government, despite being composed of two political parties opposed to whaling, is preoccupied with other issues related to the financial crisis and possible European Union membership. At a minimum, it will take a strong multi-national response to affect any change, and even then it seems unlikely the whaling will stop this season. End Comment. KLOPFENSTEIN