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U.S. May Impose Sanctions on Iceland for Hunting Whales

The United States may impose sanctions on Iceland because of the north Atlantic island’s whale hunting.

“Iceland’s harvest of whales and export of fin whale meat threaten an endangered species and undermine worldwide efforts to protect whales,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in an e-mailed statement. “It’s critical” that “Iceland take immediate action to comply” with the ban on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission.

The U.S. should push Iceland to change its policy by linking Arctic cooperation projects to commercial whaling and persuade other countries to do the same, as well as examine “other options” for responding, Locke said in the statement.

Iceland has given permits to its whalers to catch as many as 216 minke whales and 154 fin whales this year, the island’s Fisheries Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. So far, whalers have caught 38 minke whales out of a stock of 70,000 animals. No fin whales, which number 20,000, have been caught this year, according to Bjarni Hardarson, a spokesman for Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries.

The commercial whaling quota is “based on sound scientific grounds and is unquestionably sustainable,” the ministry said. Iceland, which doesn’t consider the two species endangered, exported $814,000 worth of whale meat in 2008, most of it to Japan.

The U.S. hunts bowhead whales off the coast of Alaska with Icelandic support, the Reykjavik-based ministry said. “U.S. authorities are not consistent when they criticize Icelandic fin whale hunting,” which is “no less sustainable than U.S. bowhead whaling,” the ministry said.

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