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Animal protection groups call on American travel writers to help protect whales in Iceland

WDC, together with The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) are calling on the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) to help protect whales from hunting in Iceland.

The 2014 SATW’s annual conference is taking place in Iceland from September 15–20, 2014, with participants offered the opportunity to visit several of Iceland’s magnificent natural wonders.

These wonders include its whales—of which Icelandic whalers kill hundreds each year, including the endangered fin whale, the second–largest animal on the planet. The Icelandic government recently set quotas that will allow up to 770 fin whales and 1,145 minke whales to be killed over the next five years.

Iceland exports thousands of tonnes of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan, while most minke whales are consumed within Iceland. However, surveys suggest that fewer than 3 percent of Icelanders eat minke whale meat regularly.[1] Much is consumed by curious tourists including, ironically, those who take boat trips to view the whales in the wild.

Susan Millward, executive director of AWI, states: “we are calling on the SATW to encourage participants at its 2014 conference not to be part of this problem, or to promote it unwittingly in their subsequent travel writing. AWI is encouraging them instead to enjoy a whale-watching trip and dine at the many ‘Whale Friendly’[2] restaurants that have pledged not to serve whale meat.”

Chris Butler-Stroud, chief executive officer of WDC said: “I’m constantly amazed to hear from tourists who have gone straight from a whale watch boat into a restaurant serving whale meat. I’m saddened that the irony of this situation seems to have totally escaped them—and this is where education comes in. WDC calls upon SATW to help raise awareness that tourists are currently part of the problem—but they can equally be part of the solution.”

Millward also alerted SATW’s executive director, Michael Mathy, to the fact that participants should not purchase any whale products to bring back to the United States. Noting a US State Department travel advisory,[3] she warned that: “export of whale products to the United States (and most other countries), even as a tourist souvenir, is illegal; products will be seized, and those carrying them could be subject to significant fines.”

AWI and WDC hope that its warning will encourage travel writers, and the readers they reach, to help save these magnificent and unique creatures.