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LONDON, England -- Icelandic government records state that the country is exporting meat from slaughtered whales to Latvia and Denmark, as well as Japan - in defiance of international law and a global whaling ban.
Data from Statistics Iceland, the source for official Icelandic government statistics, show a number of recent exports of whale products from Iceland to the three countries. Exports to Denmark and Latvia are contrary to EU law, even if the products are re-exported. International trade in whale products is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Exports to Latvia have been confirmed by the Latvian authorities, which have promised a full investigation, which is welcomed by IFAW.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is deeply concerned about illegal international trade in whale products, particularly in the context of current negotiations over a relaxation of the worldwide ban on commercial whaling.
Although both minke and fin whales have been hunted by Iceland in recent years, the products concerned are likely to be from fin whales, an endangered species.
Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: "Iceland appears to be riding roughshod over international law. This information comes at a time when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is considering a compromise deal that could allow commercial whaling despite the moratorium.
"These exports provide further proof that this is exactly the wrong time for the IWC to consider any moves to 'legitimise' whaling. Whales need protection and the worldwide ban on whaling needs to be strengthened, not weakened."
Both Latvia and Denmark are members of the European Union. The importation of whale products into the EU would be a violation of both the EU Habitats Directive and the EU CITES Regulation. In addition, this trade would be illegal under CITES, of which Iceland, Latvia and Denmark are members.
Patrick Ramage, IFAW's Global Whale Programme Director, said: "Apparently Iceland wants to do for saving whales what it's already done for saving money and to the future of the IWC what it's already done to its own economy.
"EU governments and others at the IWC are being pushed to accept a 'compromise' proposal aggressively promoted by Iceland, Japan and Norway. Countries serious about whale conservation need to take action immediately to stop this sell-out and save the whales."
IFAW is lodging a formal complaint with the European Commission, the CITES Secretariat, CITES representatives for Latvia, Denmark and Iceland, Interpol and the World Customs Organisation.
Link to IFAW briefing on international trade in whale meat -