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Viewing cable 08REYKJAVIK105, ICELAND RESUMES COMMERCIAL WHALING AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08REYKJAVIK105 2008-06-10 11:11 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO5370
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRK #0105/01 1621148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101148Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3675
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0030
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000105 
 
STATE FOR OES/OA JOHN FIELD 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 IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND RESUMES COMMERCIAL WHALING AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE 
IN FIN WHALE MEAT 
 
REFS: A) Reykjavik 57 B) 06 Reykjavik 388 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On May 19, the Icelandic Minister of Fisheries 
Einar Gudfinsson (Independence Party) quietly issued a quota for 
commercially hunting 40 minke whales for the domestic market.  The 
Icelandic Foreign Minister, along with the other ministers from the 
coalition Social Democratic party, publicly responded that they did 
not agree with the quota.  Further, although they acknowledged the 
decision was within Gudfinsson's power, the Social Democratic 
ministers felt the quota sacrificed greater interests for lesser 
ones.  On June 2, the Icelandic media reported that 60 tons of fin 
whale meat (from the seven whales caught in fall 2006) had been sent 
to Japan.  The local environmental NGO believes the export was not a 
commercial deal but a political ploy to pressure the government for 
more fin whale quota.   Gudfinsson said opponents of whaling would 
have to admit whaling is justified now that a market has been 
established and he did not preclude the issuance of more quotas. 
End Summary. 
 
2.  (U) On May 19, the Head of the International Office at the 
Ministry of Fisheries and Iceland's Commissioner to the 
International Whale Commission (IWC) Stefan Asmundsson telephoned 
Econoff to say that Minister of Fisheries Einar Gudfinsson would 
quietly issue a quota for 40 minke whales to satisfy the domestic 
market for whale meat.  Asmundsson said that this quota was based on 
the Marine Research Institute's 2007 recommendation that 400 minke 
whales could be harvested without impact on the stock.  By the end 
of the day, Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, who is 
not in Gudfinsson's Independence Party, but rather the coalition 
Social Democratic Alliance (SDA) party, posted a response on the SDA 
website.  It said that the six SDA ministers (out of the twelve in 
the Cabinet) opposed Gudfinsson's decision and, in what appeared to 
be a veiled reference to Iceland's United Nations Security Council 
bid, argued that it sacrificed long term gains for short ones. 
 
3.  (U) Two weeks later, on June 2, the Icelandic media reported 
that whaling firm Hvalur hf. had exported 60 tons of Icelandic fin 
whale meat to Japan.  This meat came from the seven fins hunted in 
fall 2006 when commercial whaling was restarted and was presumably 
kept in cold storage since.  Gudfinnsson, in comments to the media, 
noted that whaling opponents had always argued that there was no 
reason to hunt whales because the products would not sell; now those 
parties would have to admit whaling is justified as a market has 
been established.  He added that he did not preclude the issuance of 
more quotas.  In response, Gisladottir said it was pointless to say 
anything specific about the sale and referenced her earlier 
statement regarding the minke quota. 
 
4.  (SBU) The IWC Commissioner Asmundsson told Econoff on June 6 
that this was a legal trade and purely a private commercial deal 
with which the Ministry had no involvement.  He said that even if 
the Ministry knew of the trade beforehand "it would not have been 
proper to reveal that the export permits had been applied for." 
Asmundsson said that when Iceland decided to resume commercial 
whaling in October 2006, the ability to trade internationally in 
whale products was resumed at the same time.  Iceland has a 
reservation against fin whales being listed on CITES Appendix 1, and 
post attempted to get copies of the CITES certificates for export. 
After several offices denied that they had responsibility for such a 
certificate, we located copies of the certificates at the 
Directorate of Fisheries within the Ministry of Fisheries.  These 
certificates were filed in mid-May. 
 
5.  (SBU) On June 7, the owner of Hvalur hf., and only fin whale 
hunter in Iceland, Kristjan Loftsson told the Icelandic State media 
that he had not received the necessary permits from Japanese 
authorities to sell the meat, but that the meat was already in 
Japan.  Loftsson said nothing was unusual and that customs and 
importation procedures take time.  The local environmental NGO 
Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) told Econoff that the 
company that received the shipment in Japan was "resurrected" by the 
wealthy Loftsson just for this deal.  INCA believes this transaction 
was not a commercial deal but rather a political ploy by Loftsson to 
put pressure on the Icelandic government to issue Loftsson a further 
quota. 
 
6.  (U) As of June 9, five of the 40 minke whales covered by the new 
quota have been killed and fresh whale meat is available in 
Icelandic grocery stores.  No new whaling quotas have been issued 
beyond the minke quota.  According to Asmundsson, the 2006 quota for 
nine fin whales, of which seven were caught, has expired. 
Asmundsson would not tell Econoff whether there was a petition for a 
new quota for fin whales. 
 
REYKJAVIK 00000105  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
7.  (SBU) Comment: The opposition to the minke quota by half of the 
Cabinet was a different response from when commercial whaling was 
restarted in fall 2006.  The Social Democratic Alliance, then in 
opposition, publicly defended Iceland's right to whale and only 
expressed reservations about possible reactions from Iceland's 
friends.  Today, SDA's criticism of a fellow Cabinet minister 
indicates that there is concern with international reaction to 
whaling and its effect on Iceland's UN Security Council bid. Whether 
new commercial quotas will be issued for fin whales or more minkes 
will undoubtedly be determined by the level of international 
reaction to recent events and whether an export market has been 
truly established in Japan. 
 
 
VAN VOORST