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Viewing cable 07REYKJAVIK116, PM CALLS ICELANDIC WHALING AN EXPERIMENT, SIGNALING END TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
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