An international website that tracks vessels showed two Icelandic whaling ships, Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9, west of Iceland on their way to whaling areas. National media said the two ships left port late on Sunday.
The company, Hvalur H/F exclusively hunts endangered Fin whales for international export. Others hunt smaller Minke whales for domestic consumption. That hunt began in May, and so far seven minke whales have been harpooned, whaling staff said.
Hvalur killed 148 fin whales in 2010, but none in 2011 and 2012 because of the breakdown of its only market in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami.
The International Whaling Commission imposed a global moratorium on whaling in 1986 due to alarm at the declining stock of the marine mammals.
Iceland, which resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and Norway are the only two European countries still openly practicing commercial whaling in defiance of the moratorium.
Japan also hunts whales but insists that it is for research and scientific purposes. However, most of the meat is sold for consumption.
According to Gary Locke, U.S. Commerce Secretary, the United States strongly opposes Iceland’s defiance of the commercial whaling ban. “We urge Iceland to cease international trade of whale meat and work with the international community to safeguard whale species.” Locke said.
“It is troubling that Iceland continues to pursue commercial whaling outside the boundaries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), without member oversight or analysis by the Commission’s scientific committee,” he added.
The fin whale is globally listed as an endangered species. It is illegal to sell whale meat in the United States. Whales are protected under both the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
NOAA Law Enforcement has a hotline for anyone with information about the illegal sale of marine mammals: (800) 853-1964.