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Iceland Resumes Commercial Whale Hunt, Ignore International Moratorium; 'I am Very Pleased'

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Iceland has decided to resume commercial whale hunts for the first time in two decades, ignoring an international moratorium.

"The decision to resume sustainable whaling involves takes of 30 minke whales and nine fin whales" in the year ending August 2007, the Icelandic Fisheries Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Conservationists say fin whales are endangered.

"The Icelandic economy is overwhelmingly dependent on the utilization of living marine resources in the ocean around the country," it said of the decision.

Iceland joins only Norway in sanctioning commercial hunts of the giant marine mammals. Both nations argue that stocks have recovered since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial hunts in 1985.

"I am very pleased ... we are ready to start hunts immediately," Kristjan Loftsson, managing director of the Icelandic whaling company that received the hunt permit, said in a statement.

Since 1985, Iceland has sometimes caught whales for scientific research, skirting the IWC moratorium despite opposition from some environmental groups. Iceland's research permits included 200 minke whales from 2003-07.

Oslo broke in 1993 with the IWC ban on full commercial hunts and allowed a quota of 1,052 minke whales in 2006. The whales are eaten as steaks.

Japan, the other main whaling nation, caught 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales in Antarctic waters last season as part of a research program.

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