Illegal Icelandic whale meal exports into Denmark raises questions about the content of the Great British breakfast says WDCS
Is Iceland trying to supply the Danish bacon, fur and farmed salmon industries with illegal whales through massive whale meal exports to Denmark?
Just days after a shipment of whale meat illegally exported from Iceland was seized in Latvia, an even bigger haul of protected whale products processed into tonnes of animal feed may already be in circulation in Danish farms, says the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
WDCS is calling on the Danish government, and relevant EU authorities, to mount an urgent and immediate investigation into the Icelandic exports and, if the whale meal reached the Danish market, to take all steps necessary to identify where the meal has entered the food chain.
Iceland exported over 22 tonnes of ‘whale meal’ to Denmark in two shipments, in January and March 2009. Whale meal has been identified by the FAO as a replacement for meat and bone meal for pigs. Denmark is the world’s biggest supplier of pork products, with the UK a major market for its famous Danish bacon. Whale meal has also been identified as a possible component of feed for farmed fish.
Iceland has exported more than 233 tons of whale products in recent years with a combined value of more than US$3 million. Although international trade in whale products has been banned by CITES since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) outlawed commercial whaling in 1986, Norway, Japan, and Iceland have used loopholes in both agreements to continue commercial hunting and trade of whales.
Until recently, the whaling nations have traded only meat and blubber with each other, under reservations which exempt them from the trade ban. Chris Butler-Stroud of WDCS described the new illegal trade in other commercially viable whale products to non-whaling countries, as a “shocking development”. Destinations include Latvia where a shipment of whale meat was seized earlier this week, and Belarus. Such illegal trade constitutes the most serious violation of CITES as well as strict European Union laws.
Iceland’s attempted illegal export of protected whale products to Denmark illustrates its contempt for whaling and trade regulations, and has far-reaching implications in Denmark and beyond. Said Birgith Sloth of the Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, Denmark, “Denmark is world-renowned for its pork and bacon industry and mink farms, and is a major supplier of farmed fish. Apparently, all three markets are attractive to Iceland’s unscrupulous and greedy whaling industry”.
Butler-Stroud added, “Iceland has apparently returned to the business of mincing whales to make meal, and seems to be testing out potential markets for their products. All governments must be vigilant and take the strongest possible steps to prevent this trade continuing”.
WDCS warns, noting Iceland’s application to join the EU, “Europe now has more than 22 tonnes of reasons for zero-tolerance of Iceland’s whaling and trade. The European public will not accept a whaling nation in their midst producing whales for the human food chain. The EU must act now”.
In addition to the overtly illegal trade to Denmark and Latvia, Iceland has exported whale products worth over $2.5 million in the last twelve months, including 134 tonnes to Japan, and several shipments of whale oil to Norway, under their respective reservations to the trade ban.
For more information, please contact the WDCS Press Office on 01249 449 534, 07834 498 277 (email
Birgith Sloth, Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, Denmark +45 208 904 39. (email
Iceland hunts minke and fin whales in defiance of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland left the IWC in 1992 and then rejoined ten years later, in 2002 with a ‘reservation’ to the whaling ban. Iceland subsequently resumed commercial whaling in 2006 with self-allocated quotas.
Iceland hunted 126 fin whales and 81 minke whales in 2009 and plans to take as many as 200 of each species in 2010 with the stated aim of export.
Iceland, Norway and Japan hold reservations to the Appendix I listing of fin and minke whales by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The Faroe Islands (a territory of Denmark) are not a Party to CITES and can legally trade with countries holding reservations.
In a 2009 interview with local news media, in a response to a question about the profitability of whaling, the owner of Iceland’s fin whaling company indicated that while whale meat is the most valuable product, processed whale products such as melted fat and pulverized whale bone could be turned into “meatmeal and then “mixed with other meal…”.http://www.skessuhorn.is/Default.asp?Sid_Id=1933&tre_rod=009
There are nearly 13 million pigs on Danish pork farms, and the UK is a leading importer of Danish bacon. In the first nine months of 2009, the UK purchased almost 69,000 tonnes of Danish bacon,. The UK bacon market is a lucrative one for Denmark, as more than 80% of British households bought bacon in 2009 and bacon sales overall were up by 2.8 % in 2009, according to BPEX, a subsidiary of the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
Denmark is also the leading EU producer of fishmeals and oils, as well as a major importer (more than 100,000 tonnes annually)
EC Feed Hygiene Regulation (EC 183/2005), which was meant to improve both feed safety and traceability, should ensure the ability of EC inspectors to determine whether Iceland’s whale meal entered the food chain in Denmark, although last week the UK Food Standards Agency issued a call for consultation on the need for clearer guidelines on record keeping requirements for feed use.
All data from Iceland’s Statistical Bureau . Screen shots of each relevant part of the database are shown in an Annex.
Iceland’s illegal exports to Latvia and Denmark (total Free on Board (FOB) value US$52,748)
• January 2009: 775 kg of whale meal to Denmark
• March 2009: 22,750 kg of whale meal to Denmark
• January 2010: 250 kg of whale meat to Latvia
Iceland’s exports under reservation to Norway (total Free on Board (FOB) value: US$16,789)
• Total 2006: 300 kg of whale oil
• April 2008: 15 kg of whale oil
• September 2008: 60 kg of whale oil
• November 2008: 30 kg of whale oil.
• March 2009: 24 kg of whale oil
• September 2009: 60 kg of whale oil
• October 2009: 90 kg of whale oil
• November 2009: 129 kg of whale oil
Iceland’s exports under reservation to Japan (total FOB value: US$ 3,142,514)
• June 2008: 81,774 kg of frozen whale meat (FOB Value US$ 746,374)
• January 2010: 134,026 kg of “other frozen whale products” (FOB value US$ 2,396,140)
Iceland’s exports under reservation with a non-Party (Faroe Islands) (total value: US$ 5,732)
• July 2008: Iceland exported 909 kg of whale meat to the Faroe Islands.