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Cablegate: Iceland Iwc Commissioner Pessimistic On Progress In

R 130758Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SESTATE WASHDC 3691
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0033

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 REYKJAVIK 000110

STATE FOR OES/OA JOHN FIELD AND EUR/NB
USDOC FOR NMFS CHERI MCCARTY
TOKYO FOR BART COBBS
COPENHAGEN FOR ESTH HUB

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EFIS KSCA PREL IWC ETRD IC
SUBJECT: ICELAND IWC COMMISSIONER PESSIMISTIC ON PROGRESS IN
UPCOMING IWC MEETING

REFS: A) State 57319 B) Reykjavik 105 C) Evans - Field emails D) 06 Reykjavik 388

1. (SBU) Summary: Iceland's Whaling Commissioner Stefan Asmundsson
told post that he is pessimistic that any progress will be made in
the upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile.
Asmundsson was careful not to criticize the IWC Chairman Bill
Hogarth but is worried that the focus on consensus building will not
help tackle more substantive issues. Asmundsson was positive about
a small working group, provided it is small and has a good mix of
members. Regarding the recent trade of fin whale meat with Japan,
Asmundsson said it was perfectly legal and opined the IWC cannot
expect a "status quo" of no whaling while discussions continue
within the IWC. Asmundsson also brushed aside the recent reduction
of recommended minke hunt from 400 to 100 as an issue of stock
distribution, not stock endangerment. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Econoff presented ref A points to Iceland's Whaling
Commissioner Stefan Asmundsson on June 6. Asmundsson said that his
concern with Bill Hogarth's chairmanship was that the strong focus
on consensus and making sure that everyone around the table behaves
as friends is circumventing the issue a bit. He hopes that the
upcoming meeting in Santiago will be more substantive. Asmundsson
quickly said that he understood Hogarth's task was tough and said
"this is not a criticism of Bill," but he opined that nothing will
happen in Santiago if the underlying politics are not addressed.

3. (SBU) Asmundsson was familiar with the small working group idea
and said, "we already did miniaturization under Henrik Fischer"
which was unsuccessful because of political reasons. Asmundsson
believed that Fischer did get the mix of the group right -- by
leaving out the extremes such as Australia and Norway. This time
around Asmundsson believes a good mix for the small groups would be
Iceland, Japan, U.S., possibly Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, but
definitely not Australia. He was not concerned about "too small" a
size but rather "too large." Asmundsson said double digits were not
a good idea because of the need for intimacy. He also went on at
length about the need to include countries that are likely to build
middle ground and he stressed that moderate countries need to
distance themselves from the anti-whaling countries. He said what
did not work ten years ago was that the parties did not have the
political backing to finalize the solution.

4. (SBU) Regarding procedural improvements mentioned in the March
intersessional, Asmundsson said Iceland can go along with many of
the procedures mentioned. He stressed however, that procedures do
not address the fundamental issues and described it as "going around
the issue."

5. (SBU) When directly asked whether the recent shipment of whale
meat to Japan (Ref B) will affect this year's negotiations,
Asmundsson said the trade was legal and thought it would not have an
effect. He said that Iceland's position has been clear since it
resumed commercial whaling in October 2006 and that trade was
implicit with that decision (Ref D). Asmundsson said this just
showed the problems with the IWC and that action needed to happen
fast if one wanted the IWC to have a role. He continued with "you
can't expect a status quo while discussions continue in the IWC" and
later went on to say, "unless the IWC improves, things will continue
outside the IWC. It's not what we want, but that's what we have."

6. (SBU) When Econoff raised further questions regarding future
trade with Japan (Ref C), Asmundsson responded that the transaction
was not a government operation and the decision to trade had already
been made in 2006. He noted that the 2006 quota had expired, so if
Kristjan Loftsson, the only fin whaler in Iceland, wanted to hunt
fins, he would have to ask for a new quota. Asmundsson did not
reveal whether Loftsson had filed such a request, but did say "I
wouldn't rule out" a new fin whale quota.

7. (SBU) Regarding the recent media reports that the Icelandic
Marine Research Institute revised their recommendation for a
sustainable quota for minke whales from 400 animals in 2007 to 100
animals in 2008, Asmundsson said it was an issue of stock
distribution, not stock size. Asmundsson said there is no
indication of a collapse in minke whale stock as skinny animals
would have been observed. He noted that the commercial minke quota
of 40 animals (Ref B) this year showed that Iceland takes
sustainability seriously.

VAN VOORST

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