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By Kitty Block
Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.
The whaling company Hvalur hf, whose name means "Whale, Inc." in Icelandic, announced Tuesday it would resume its killing of endangered fin whales after a two-year hiatus. The Icelandic government will allow Hvalur to kill 161 fin whales, as well as allow it to use 20 percent of its self-allocated and unused quota from last year, which means up to 191 whales could be killed. And all of this killing will happen in defiance of the International Whaling Commission's global moratorium on commercial whaling.
Iceland's decision will rightly cause outrage all over the world, and the country's government should really know better.
Hvalur is a 70-year-old killing enterprise, owned by a wealthy citizen with outsized influence in the Land of Fire and Ice. And Hvalur is the principal reason why this otherwise ecologically responsible nation continues to support an ecologically irresponsible practice.
The fin whale, our planet's second largest animal after the blue whale, is classified as a globally endangered species. During its last hunt, in 2015, Hvalur killed 155 of them. Then the company took two years off apparently because of a declining market for whale meat in Japan. The commercial whaling industry in Iceland also hunts minke whales in defiance of the moratorium.
Iceland's greenlighting of Hvalur's actions is especially disappointing and surprising in light of the fact that the U.S. has undertaken a rigorous review process of Iceland's whaling activities and certified Iceland under the Pelly Amendment, a legal provision that includes potential economic sanctions against nations that are compromising marine conservation goals. The U.S. imposed sanctions under this process for Iceland's participation in the trade of whale meat and products.
Whales face multiple threats in today's oceans from pollution, climate change, entanglements in fish nets and ship strike. The global moratorium is needed more than ever, and it's a shame that Iceland would bow to the will of one man and one company.
Iceland returned to the International Whaling Commission in 2002 with a reservation to the commercial moratorium, a claim 19 member nations objected to at the time. Controversially, Iceland was allowed to vote on its own readmission. At the time, many IWC governments strongly objected because the country, bound by the moratorium to which it had agreed in 1982, had quit and rejoined but then opted out of the single most important conservation measure of the treaty. Countries do not normally quit simply because they don't like the conservation measures to which they have agreed. You're either in or you're out.
Iceland is one of just three nations that conduct and otherwise encourage commercial whaling in defiance of the IWC's global moratorium, with Norway and Japan being the other two. Japan's whaling fleet recently returned to port with a kill total of 333 minke whales taken in its months-long hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctic waters. Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, is an unabashed supporter of whaling. The leader likes to invoke cultural arguments even in defense of a rapacious whaling industry that is fundamentally commercial and not genuinely rooted in Japanese tradition.
In this respect, Iceland, Japan and Norway are in the same boat, as nations deeply unmoored from world opinion and sensitivity toward the plight of the whales as a matter of shared feeling and concern. Their continued whaling stands in the way of the urgent work of saving whales from looming threats that require the concerted energy and constructive action of a united global community.
Kitty Block is acting president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and president of Humane Society International.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.