End Commercial Whaling

Despite an international ban on commercial whaling, whales are still being killed across the world’s oceans. Many species were devastated by centuries of hunting, and the international community agreed to bring whales back from the brink of extinction by outlawing commercial whale hunts in 1986. Yet several countries, including Japan, Iceland, and Norway, continue to kill thousands of whales each year for profit. And two of those countries, Iceland and Japan, slaughter whales illegally.

Crew on a Japanese whaling vessel in the Antarctic drag an injured whale to the side of their ship
Mark Votier/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

NRDC fights to stop illegal commercial whaling once and for all. We push for diplomatic sanctions and international rulings against Japan and Iceland. And we launch consumer campaigns to pressure U.S. companies to stop doing business with companies that benefit from the killing of whales.

For years, Japan has exploited a loophole in the ban on commercial whaling that allows the lethal take of whales for “scientific research purposes.” Japan has killed more than 13,000 whales in the past 30 years, supposedly to study them, yet it has produced few scientific studies. The animals end up butchered and sold on the market.

NRDC supported efforts to bring Japan to the United Nations International Court of Justice, and in 2014 the court ruled that country’s program is illegal. But in late 2015, Japan sent a fleet of whaling ships back to the Southern Ocean. Nearly 500 marine scientists sent a letter to the International Whaling Commission decrying Japan’s so-called scientific program. NRDC will continue applying legal and political pressure to force the nation to stop its reckless actions.

Carving blubber from a whale at a whaling station in Iceland
Ted Spiegel/Getty Images

Iceland doesn’t claim to hunt whales for scientific purposes; it openly kills whales to sell their meat. Together with our partners and members, we persuaded the U.S. Commerce Department to rebuke Iceland in 2011 under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act, a measure that allows the United States to censure countries for undermining conservation efforts. As a result, President Obama enacted diplomatic sanctions against Iceland.

We also galvanized NRDC members to send tens of thousands of comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling for action on this issue. In 2014, the agency ruled that Iceland’s international trade in whale meat and products undermines CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. And again, President Obama imposed diplomatic sanctions against Iceland.

NRDC is also engaging the power of the market to halt Iceland’s whaling. We joined several environmental groups to launch the Don’t Buy from Icelandic Whalers campaign. Our research shows that many U.S. companies buy from HB Grandi, Iceland’s largest seafood firm, which has long-standing ties to the whaling industry. We also found that several Icelandic fishing companies share corporate boards and facilities with Hvalur, the country’s only firm that kills fin whales.

NRDC and our partners are calling on U.S. food producers and retailers to stop buying fish tainted by whale blood. Trader Joe’s and High Liner Foods (a leading North American seafood company) have already responded by voicing their opposition to commercial whaling and refusing to buy products from companies linked to whale slaughter.

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