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ICELAND CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL WHALING BAN TO BE LIFTED

 REYKJAVIK, Iceland, May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- As the International Whaling Commission (IWC) prepares to meet in Kyoto, Japan, on Monday, May 10 to Friday, May 14, Iceland today called for a lifting of the moratorium on whaling because "the principles on which it was imposed no longer apply".
 Iceland's Fisheries Minister, Thorsteinn Palsson, told journalists in Reykjavik that findings endorsed by the IWC's own scientific committee showed that whale stocks, including Central Atlantic minke and fin whale, were capable of being "harvested safely".
 The IWC's zero-quota on whaling was introduced in 1985, to allow a comprehensive review of the whale stocks. This review has now taken place, and Iceland is concerned that the IWC seems to be ignoring scientific studies, including its own, and has little intention of lifting the ban.
 Mr. Palsson said that experience had taught Iceland that a majority of IWC members favor total protection of all species of whale, in any circumstances. But to impose a ban on all whaling simply because some species are in need of protection is like banning all fishing because the cod population had been endangered by overfishing in certain areas.
 Norwegian scientists have suggested that a total ban on whaling may even be preventing heavily depleted species from recovering. In northern regions, seals and whales such as minke, have taken advantage of the surplus food which became available after the depletion of the blue whale. The blue whale would therefore be able to recover more rapidly if minke whale stocks were to be managed. In this case, overprotection can be as harmful as overexploitation to the marine ecosystem.
 Icelanders depend for their livelihood on the sea and its resources. Seafood and marine products account for almost 80 percent of Iceland's total export earnings. Its waters are among the richest fishing grounds in the world and Iceland has striven to conserve the fish stocks in them and increase their utilization, by marine research programs and application of the best available scientific data to management of the fishing effort.
 Historically Iceland has recognized the need to ban whaling at certain times to allow depleted stocks to recover. Thus Iceland announced one of the world's first bans on whaling in 1916 because foreign fleets had depleted its stocks and this ban lasted three decades. Iceland then took part in commercial whaling until 1985 when whaling ceased, in order to comply with the IWC's zero-quota.
 However, Iceland withdrew from the IWC in 1992 for a number of reasons including the fact that the majority of member nations are opposed to the resumption of any whaling, sustainable or not, because only a handful have a direct interest in whaling.
 The IWC's members include many of the world's largest industrialized nations, which bear much of the responsibility for the serious state of the global environment today. Their intense concern about harvesting the ocean - but not about polluting it - has prompted questions as to whether they are using their opposition as a kind of "green alibi", designed to give the impression they are concerned with the environment despite their poor records in their own countries on other ecological issues.
 Iceland is calling for a regional rather than a global approach to marine conservation, as it believes a regional organization would be better placed to make decisions on protection or harvesting in local ecosystems. Together with other North Atlantic nations, it has established a special Marine Mammal Commission, whose task is to promote the study of marine mammals in the region as well as their conservation and management.
 Iceland is not asking for a unrestricted license to harvest whales. It recognizes that there are some species of whale which cannot be safely harvested at present.
 What it does want is the permission to safely harvest certain whale stocks under active supervision and scientific consultation, in order to manage its marine resources in a sustainable way. This would also be a way of providing food which would otherwise need to be produced on land, and so helping to conserve natural vegetation and reduce pollution from the use of artificial fertilizers.
 -0- 5/4/93
 /CONTACT: Arnor Halldorsson of the Ministry of Fisheries, 54-1-60-96-70, or FAX 354-1-62-18-53/


CO: International Whaling Commission ST: IN: SU:

SH -- NY011 -- 4144 05/04/93 08:26 EDT
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Date:May 4, 1993
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