Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK36, ICELANDIC FISHERIES MINISTER PESSIMISTIC ON REVERSING
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|09REYKJAVIK36||2009-02-18 15:03||2011-01-13 05:05||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Reykjavik|
VZCZCXYZ0000 RR RUEHWEB DE RUEHRK #0036/01 0491540 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 181540Z FEB 09 FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3987 INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0037 RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0018 RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0059
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000036 STATE FOR OES/OA MAGGIE HAYS AND LISA PHELPS AND EUR/NB USDOC FOR NMFS CHERI MCCARTY TOKYO FOR BART COBBS COPENHAGEN FOR ESTH HUB SENSITIVE SIPDIS E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: SENV EFIS KSCA PREL IWC ETRD PGOV IC SUBJECT: ICELANDIC FISHERIES MINISTER PESSIMISTIC ON REVERSING PREDECESSOR'S WHALE HUNT QUOTAS FOR 2009 REF: REYKJAVIK 25 ¶1. (SBU) Summary: At the head of a delegation of seven ambassadors, the Ambassador urged the new Minister of Fisheries February 7 to rescind the quota established by his predecessor last month that would allow a large commercial hunt for fin and minke whales over the next five years. The Minister, who will make a decision this week, described the constraints that limited a complete revocation of the quota, but implied he was exploring options to limit or restrict the hunt in future years. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs later assured the ambassador that he does not endorse the quota decision. End summary. ¶2. (SBU) Accompanied by ambassadors from the U.K., Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, and The Netherlands, the Ambassador presented Minister of Finance, Fisheries, and Agriculture Steingrimur J. Sigfusson a joint letter (text below) protesting the decision by outgoing Fisheries Minister Einar K. Gudfinsson on January 27 to issue a quota allowing a harvest of 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales this year and for each of the subsequent four years. Speaking for the delegation, the Ambassador thanked Sigfusson for his willingness to review the decision and urged him to rescind it. Pointing out that the seven countries signing the demarche represented almost half of all tourists to Iceland last year (tourism is a pillar of the Icelandic economy, particularly since the economic crash last fall), she stressed the growth of the whale watching sector in Iceland and the negative impact of whaling on Iceland's international image. She questioned assertions by the pro-whaling sectors that the hunt would employ significant numbers and that export of the meat would be profitable. She further deplored the decision for undermining efforts in the IWC to find a solution to the polarization of that organization. ¶3. (SBU) Sigfusson made it clear that he personally opposed the decision by his predecessor, resented that the new government had been saddled with such a controversial issue, but expected the legal review now underway would certify that Gudfinsson had acted within his mandate. Sigfusson believed that revocation might not be constitutionally possible, though this option was being explored by Ministry experts. He noted that he was in a "tricky situation" in that a majority of the 63-member parliament had already put forward a bill to validate the Gudfinsson quota. Sigfusson observed that cabinet ministers in Iceland are answerable to parliament, and said he faced the threat that parliament could and most likely would depose him from office were he to attempt to rescind the quota. ¶4. (SBU) Sigfusson agreed that the question of the economic viability of the harvest is important to the government and is still unresolved; whether an international market exists for the whale meat, and whether the claims by the whaling lobby that the hunt would produce 300 jobs for Icelanders, are question that remain to be determined. He appreciated the ambassador's point about the importance of tourism from anti-whaling countries to the stricken local economy, but said that the support of the Icelandic people for whaling was so deep-seated it constituted a "clash of cultures" with the outside world. ¶5. (SBU) Sigfusson said he had "limited possibility to reverse the decision in terms of quota or time scale," hinting that he would not be able to do much to change the decision for this year. The whalers were preparing for the hunt despite warnings issued by the Fisheries Minister not to move ahead until the issue was settled. However, Sigfusson said that "the longer future is easier to deal with," implying he is exploring a two-phase solution in which he could make changes in the season length, the quota, and perhaps the species for the second through fifth years. ¶6. (SBU) Ambassador also raised the issue February 18 with new Minister of Foreign Affairs Ossur Skarphedinsson, who is concurrently the Minister of Tourism. Skarphedinsson said flatly that he was against whaling (and in fact came from a family well-known for its anti-whaling views). He noted, without details, that he understood that Sigfusson is working on a bill to present to parliament that would give the Fisheries Minister authority to alter some parts of the quota decision. Skarphedinsson mentioned that restricting whaling to defined areas of Iceland's waters might be one of the actions Sigfusson could take for this coming season. ¶7. (U) Text of joint letter to Minister of Finance, Fisheries, and Agriculture, dated February 12, 2009 and signed by ambassadors of U.S., U.K., Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, and The Netherlands: We are writing you today to express our governments' extreme disappointment in the decision of your predecessor to issue a quota for 150 fin and 100 minke whales to be harvested in Icelandic waters. We applaud your interest in re-evaluating this decision. We deeply regretted Iceland's decision to resume commercial harvest of fin and minke whales in 2006, and each of our governments objected to Iceland's reservation to the commercial whaling moratorium adopted pursuant to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Our governments are concerned that the issuance of a quota at this time will undermine the "Future of the IWC" efforts, in which Iceland has been a participant. It is critical that the continuation or expansion of Iceland's commercial harvest or international trade in whale meat does not undermine goodwill or hamper progress in resolving issues pending before the Commission. We call on Iceland to reconsider this decision and focus on the advancement of the Commission, and the long-term rather than short-term interests of the whaling industry. End text. van Voorst