US Considering Sanctions Against Iceland Over Whaling

21.7.2011
Words by Paul Fontaine
The US government is considering imposing sanctions on Iceland for the practice of hunting endangered fin whales. Ministers within the Icelandic government - and even within the same party - have mixed reactions.

The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration intends to cite Iceland as an example when announcing a law that gives the US the right to impose sanctions on any country that flouts international animal conservation laws. After the announcement, which is set to happen Wednesday, the US president then has 60 days to decide on sanctions. Sanctions against Iceland would likely involve ceasing to import any Icelandic fish products, at least from companies connected to whaling.

Minister of Agriculture Jón Bjarnason told Vísir he is not concerned with a possible sanction, considering it "out of the question" that the US would do such a thing. He also takes issue with the US pointing out that Iceland is hunting an endangered species, saying that there are 20,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic, of which Iceland is hunting less than 200.

However, Árni Þór Sigurðsson - chairman of the foreign affairs committee and, like Jón, a member of the Leftist-Green party - believes the practice of whaling should stop, writing on his Facebook, "Icelanders (or should we say 'An Icelander'?) hunting whales is more damaging for the business and political interests of Iceland than stopping [whale hunting]."

Árni's use of the singular when talking about whale hunting is not meant entirely in jest. It has recently come to light that Iceland's whaling "industry" is more or less the business venture of a single man, Kristján Loftsson.

With disagreements within the government over whaling, and possible sanctions looming, it is still not clear what official response the Icelandic government will take.

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