Although many whales are classified as endangered, Iceland in recent years has ramped up its commercial whaling activities, with the country exporting more than 800 tonnes (880 tons) of whale meat, whale blubber and oil in 2010 alone, according to the Whales Need US coalition.

(Minke whale surfacing in Iceland; Images: Wikimedia Commons)

(Minke whale meat kabobs sold in Iceland)

In response to Iceland’s actions, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society this week filed a petition, calling on the U.S. secretaries of Commerce and Interior to impose trade sanctions against Iceland “for its escalating defiance of international conservation agreements on commercial whaling.”

PLANET GREEN: Get Within Inches of Whales

Recently I spoke with Sue Rocca, a biologist at the WDCS. She shared that Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and dramatically increased its self-allocated quotas in 2009 to include 150 fin whales annually. Fin whales are the world’s second largest animal. They are also included on the list of endangered whales.

(Fin whale)

The 800 tonnes (880 tons) of whale products that Iceland exported to Japan, Norway and the Faroe Islands this year have been valued at $11,000,000. The WDCS charges that Iceland “made illegal shipments of whale products to Latvia and Belarus.”

There is, of course, a long-standing history of whaling in Iceland, but the more recent issues date back to 2004. That’s when the U.S certified Iceland under the Pelly Amendment. Iceland was allowed to conduct so-called “research whaling.”

President Bush at the time declined to impose trade sanctions. Given Iceland’s recent whaling activity, the Obama administration is now “evaluating potential responses.”

“We applaud the U.S. for recognizing that more must be done to stop this senseless killing,” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist for the Animal Welfare Institute, who was quoted in a WDCS press release. “This petition provides the government with the evidence it needs to act urgently and decisively to impose significantly stronger measures against Iceland and its whaling industry.”

Taryn Kiekow, staff attorney for the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, was also quoted in the same release.

“Now is the time for the U.S. to take robust measures against Iceland for its continued defiance of international law,” said Kiekow. “Iceland’s commercial whaling policy is considered archaic and cruel by the rest of the world and we ask the U.S. to impose trade sanctions against it.”