Australia, NZ protest Iceland's decision to resume whaling.
(EDS: INCORPORATING STORY HEADLINED 'NEW ZEALAND BLASTS ICELAND'S DECISION TO RESUME WHALING')
Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday deplored Iceland's decision to resume commercial whaling in its waters for the first time since 1989, suggesting the move calls into question its qualifications to sit on the International Whaling Commission.
''Iceland's decision to authorize an annual hunt of 30 minke and nine fin whales (an internationally recognized endangered species) is completely reprehensible,'' Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage Ian Campbell said in a statement.
He called the decision to resume commercial whaling ''an international disgrace'' and warned that it will damage that country's booming whale watching industry.
New Zealand's Conservation Minister Chris Carter, in a separate statement, said his government ''will be making it very clear to the Icelandic government that we utterly reject their country's right to resume commercial whaling, and remain a part of the IWC.''
Iceland, which rejoined the IWC in 2002, said Tuesday it will allow the harpooning of 39 whales in the year to the end of next August, including nine fin whales, which are listed on the international Red List of Threatened Species as ''endangered.''
Having left the IWC in 1992 in protest at the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in effect since 1986, Iceland rejoined the body a decade later with a controversial reservation against the ban.
As a part of its reservation, Iceland committed itself to not authorize commercial whaling before 2006, though it has continued to hunt whales in the name of scientific research by exploiting what opponents call a loophole in the IWC Convention.
''New Zealand does not accept the validity of this reservation. Iceland cannot escape the obligations of a convention by withdrawing from it and rejoining with a reservation against decisions taken by the convention that Iceland was part of at the time. It is nonsensical,'' Carter said.
Campbell, meanwhile, noted that when Iceland rejoined the IWC in 2002, Australia and 17 other pro-conservation countries formally registered an objection to its reservation, which he called ''incompatible with the object and purpose of the (IWC) Convention.''
Iceland joins Norway in sanctioning commercial hunts of the giant marine mammals. Japan, the other main whaling nation, says its hunts are for scientific research, something Campbell dismissed as ''really thinly veiled commercial whaling.''
''Even modern killing methods involve an unacceptable level of cruelty,'' he said. ''The world no longer needs commercial whaling to meet essential our needs; and this 19th century practice needs to stop now.''
Australia, he said, ''will continue to work closely with pro-conservation allies towards a permanent ban on this archaic practice.''
Australia and New Zealand are among the staunchest advocates of whale conservation. They are currently proposing the establishment of a South Pacific whale sanctuary to protect the breeding grounds of migratory great whales.