BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 5, 2009 (ENS)
Twenty-six countries Friday issued a joint statement putting diplomatic pressure on Iceland to abandon whaling. Icelandic whalers have killed more than 200 whales so far since June, including endangered 125 fin whales and 79 smaller and more abundant minke whales.
The joint demarche, a formal diplomatic protest signed by the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and 12 European Union countries including Germany, France, Portugal and Spain, states that the 26 governments are "deeply disappointed" with the former Icelandic government's decision to authorize commercial whaling.
Earlier this year, the outgoing Fisheries and Agriculture Minister granted commercial whaling quotas of up to 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales a year for five years.
The current government has kept these kill quotas in place for one year, and increased the catch allocation to 200 fin whales and 200 minke whales for 2009, despite what conservationists say is a limited market for minke whale meat and no market for fin whale meat.
"I am extremely disappointed to hear that nearly 200 whales have been taken so far this year," UK wildlife minister Huw Irranca-Davies told the "Telegraph" newspaper.
A similar demarche against Icelandic whaling under the previous government was issued by 26 countries in November 2006.
Shortly before Friday's demarche was issued, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and other animal welfare groups staged a protest outside the Icelandic Embassy in London.
They called on the Icelandic government to heed the international criticism and support responsible whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.
, UK Director of IFAW, said, "The eyes of the world are on Iceland as we urge them to stop this cruel and unnecessary slaughter of whales. Citizens of the UK and many other countries around the world view the commercial killing of whales with disgust."
"Iceland's persistence in continuing with its inhumane and unsustainable whaling puts it out of step with the rest of Europe," said Marsland. "Whales shot with explosive harpoons can take more than half an hour to die, and Iceland is also killing an endangered species for which no market has been found.
Opinion polling and independent economic research in Iceland has revealed little appetite for whale meat, while responsible whale watching, by contrast, is financially lucrative and one of the country's most popular tourist activities, generating€5m a year for coastal communities.