The United States on Friday denounced Iceland’s decision to go ahead with a sharply higher whaling quota, voicing concern there were not whales to sustain the hunt.
Iceland’s new left-wing government said last week it will maintain an earlier decision for a quota of 150 fin and 150 minke whales this year — a sixfold increase — despite international calls for it to reconsider.
The US State Department said it “strongly opposes” the decision.
“We are deeply concerned that stocks of fin and minke whales are not adequate to support this harvest,” it said in a statement.
“We call upon the government of Iceland to rescind this decision and to focus on the long-term conservation of whale stocks, rather than on the short-term interests of its whaling industry,” it said.
The United States also said the decision would undermine ongoing talks on the future of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The IWC reform talks are part of a US-led drive to reduce tensions around close ally Japan, which infuriates Australia and New Zealand by killing hundreds of whales each year in the Antarctic Ocean.
Japan says it abides by a 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling as it uses a loophole that allows “lethal research” on the ocean giants, with the meat then heading to restaurants and supermarkets.
Norway and Iceland defy the moratorium altogether.
Iceland’s new government came to office after the global financial crisis ravaged the economy of the island, which became the first Western European nation in three decades to need a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The new government includes parties opposed to whaling, but it said it was maintaining the new whaling quota because it concluded it was legally bound to it.