To: His Excellency Helgi Ágústsson Ambassador of Iceland to the United States
Subject: Iceland's resumption of the killing of whales
Many thanks for responding in your letter dated November 7th to the concerns of thousands of people worldwide on the decision of your government to ignore world opinion and to unilaterally embark on a campaign of whale killing.
There is no doubt that Iceland has an excellent reputation for marine conservation and sustainable fishing. As someone who lived in Iceland for a number of years, I saw and appreciated this at first hand. Sadly your decision to resume the killing of whales will greatly undermine your previous successes in this area as well as your nation's image on the international stage. This decision in one fell swoop undermines the increased efforts of many states to protect biodiversity that has been brought about by the growing numbers of individual citizens and institutions who are becoming aware of the massive damage that mankind has inflicted on the plant and the realisation that, if it is controlled immediately, it will lead ultimately to the destruction of our own species.
I fundamentally disagree with you on the content and theme of your letter which, in my view , fails to provide justification for Iceland's present stance on whale killing.
So in reply to your comments, I would like to state the following:
1. It is quite disingenuous of you in your letter to list without explanation the United States, Russia and Greenland in your list of whaling countries. None of these countries undertake large scale whaling. Rather whaling is carried out by native peoples in traditional communities for reasons of local consumption.
2. As surveys have shown, there is no demand amongst the Icelandic people for whale meat.
3. Your marine-orientated economy does not need the resumption of whale killing to continue its growth.
4. The whale is one of the most beautiful and awesome creatures on the planet. Why kill such a majestic animal? Unlike the native peoples of Alaska and Greenland, Icelanders don't need its food or blubber to survive.
6. While the world is suffering from a massive loss of wildlife, your government decides to initiate a campaign of killing one of the world's largest animals. What signal does this give to the increased numbers of peoples and governments worldwide who are facing up to the challenge of protecting biodiversity?
7. In justifying the resumption of whale killing, you list your country's long established concerns/actions on marine conservation and its sustainable management of marine resources as proof that no harm will come to the survival of the whale.
This again is disingenuous as Iceland's decision to resume whale killing will give the 'green light' to many other countries to follow suit which will seriously impact negatively whale populations worldwide. You have unlocked 'Pandora's Box'.
8. Finally, the increase in membership of the IWC over the last few years is grounds for pessimism for the majority of organisation's long-time members. These new members are almost all countries without whaling or even deep sea fishing traditions who were encouraged to join by Japan the leading exponent of the return to large scale whale killing. Political actions for the benefit of short term gains by countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland are putting all our lives at risk in the long term.
The Icelandic Ambassador replies to my (& thousands more) letter condemning Iceland's decision to kill whales:
Thank you for your correspondence concerning Iceland's policy on whaling. I wish to assure you that Iceland has no intention of catching any of the endangered species of whales, killed on a large scale by other whaling nations in the past. Iceland's resumption of sustainable whaling only involves abundant stocks and is linked to Iceland's overall policy of sustainable utilisation of marine resources. Iceland fully appreciates the need for careful conservation of marine resources. Our economy depends on those resources as marine products constitute around 60% of Iceland's revenue from exported goods and almost 40% of all Icelandic exported goods and services. Disruption of the ecological balance in Icelandic waters due to overfishing or other reasons could have catastrophic consequences for the livelihood of Icelanders. ... Iceland has taken great care in maintaining balanced and sustainable fishing in Icelandic waters by enforcing an effective management system for various fish species including cod, herring and capelin... For a number of years, Iceland has acknowledged the need for scientific research on whales to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the different whale stocks and other marine species and the role of whales in the marine ecosystem. Therefore, Iceland began implementing a research plan on minke whales in 2003... ...many whale populations are far from being threatened or endangered. The total stock size of Central North-Atlantic minke whales, for example, is close to 70,000 animals. Of those, around 43,600 live in Icelandic coastal waters. Fin whales in the Central North Atlantic number around 25,800 animals... Iceland's decision to resume sustainable whaling involves takes of 30 minke whales and nine fin whales, during the current fishing year which ends on 31 August 2007 A responsible management system will ensure that the catch quotas set will not be exceeded. The catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development. ... Therefore, Iceland is no longer bound by the so-called moratorium on commercial whaling. In this respect, Iceland is in the same position as other IWC members that are not bound by the moratorium... I hope that this information will be useful to you in understanding Iceland's position on sustainable whaling. Sincerely yours, Helgi Ágústsson Ambassdor of Iceland
The Icelandic government is opening the oceans of the world to the wholesale slaughter of the gentle giants known as 'Whales'. Their recent decision to ignore world opinion and recommence the killing of the Miinke & Fin whales, after years of adhering to a world-wide ban, is giving the green light to other countries to follow suit.
While humanity at last is coming to a slow realisation that its actions are having possibly an irreversable negative effect on the earth's climate and biodiversity that will undermine the survival of our own species, Iceland decides to implement this stupid action. Why?
It is not that Icelanders have a fetish for whale meat- less than 3% want to do so. They don't need the money generated by the export of the meat- the country is amongst the top wealthiest nations. Furthermore, the country has an international reputation for marine conversation and sustainable management of its fisheries.
Having lived in Iceland for a number of years, I love the county and its people with a passion. But this move is crazy and the Icelanders should overturn their own government's retrograde decision.
By the way, the picture of the Minke and Fin whales was drawn by my 6 year old son Dáire.