Iceland to keep larger whaling quota

From correspondents in Reykjavik

Agence France-Presse

February 19, 2009 05:09am

ICELAND will maintain its new whaling quota of 150 fin and up to 150 minke whales this year despite international calls for it to reconsider the sixfold catch increase, the government said today.

"It is our conclusion that the decision on whaling remains unchanged for this year," Fisheries Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said, adding that no decision had been taken for the coming four years.

Iceland's former government announced the increase in late January as one of its last moves before leaving office, saying the annual quota would be valid for five years.

But a new left-wing interim government that came to power just days later vowed to review the decision.

Seven countries - Britain, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States - sent a letter to the new government last week urging it to review the decision.

"We realise that this might lead to harsh criticism and even acts against Iceland and we will have to react to that," Mr Sigfusson said.

The new minority government is made up of two anti-whaling parties, the Social Democrats and the Left Green party but it decided to maintain the quota after seeking legal opinion on the matter.

"It is (the lawyer's) conclusion that the Icelandic state is bound by the decision ... Therefore the current minister of fisheries is not able to recall the regulation," Mr Sigfusson said.

Mr Sigfusson said whalers could not, however, expect the quota to remain at the same level for the next four years.

"The government must follow the whaling and issues related to whaling closely and maintain the right to act, even this year, if there are changes in the preconditions" for whaling, he said.

Prior to the announcement of the increased catch, Iceland, which pulled out of an international whaling moratorium in 2006 after 16 years, had a quota of just nine fin whales and 40 minke whales per year.

Mr Sigfusson said Iceland's Whaling Act of 1949 will undergo a review, starting today. Areas close to several harbours frequented by whale watchers will be closed to whaling, he said.

Iceland and Norway are the only two countries in the world that authorise commercial whaling. Japan officially hunts whales for scientific purposes, which are contested by opponents, and the whale meat is sold for consumption.

If anyone is wondering why the Sea Shepherd isn't bothering them....the moment he goes near Iceland or any of their ships, it's because he will be boarded, cuffed, arrested and hauled off to jail.

Watson, the snivelling little eco terrorist that he is, is a wanted man.

Waiting for M21, his biggest fan, to chime in.