From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1997:

REYKJAVIK, Iceland––Apparently hoping to lure
Iceland back into the International Whaling Commission, IWC
secretary Ray Gambrell on March 1 in Reykjavik proposed a
“final solution” to the stalemate within IWC over permitting the
resumption of commercial whaling. So-called “traditional and
cultural” whaling would be permitted within the 200-mile
Economic Exploitation Zones that nations maintain over fisheries,
while high seas whaling would remain forbidden.
According to High North Web News, published by
the pro-whaling High North Alliance, “Gambrell explained that
his optimism was based on the closed and informal IWC commissioners
meeting in Grenada in January.”
Politically, the Gambrell “final solution” might work.
It would authorize the present unilateral Norwegian commercial
whale hunt, a similar hunt off Iceland, the coastal hunt Japan
seeks to revive, and all existing and proposed aboriginal hunts,
including those of the Makah off Washington and the Maori off
New Zealand. If high seas fishers killed some whales too, then
transferred the corpses to whalers inside the 200-mile limit
before heading to port, no one need know about it.

But Gambrell’s “final solution” could mean a holocaust
for coastal species, including the highly endangered bowheads
and northern right whales. Major whale-watching venues
like the Gulf of California, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and
Stellwagen bank might remain safe, but similar sites in the
Third World could become seas of slaughter.
The Gambrell proposal, rejected only by British
IWC commissioner Ivor Llewelyn, as other commissioners
kept careful silence, had been expected for more than a month.
In Grenada, International Wildlife Coalition president
Daniel Morast reported, anti-whaling activists, barred
from the discussion sessions, “kept waiting for word to leak
that someone had finally put forward the smoking-gun proposal
outlining the way forward for the resumption of commercial
whaling, but nothing of the sort ever happened.”
Gambrell’s remarks signalled the end of the calm
before the storm. Forthcoming in June is the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species triennial meeting in
Zimbabwe. The IWC annual meeting will follow, in Monaco
in October. Both sites are within the World Wildlife Fund
“sustainable use” sphere, which holds that the way to save
species is to make killing them so profitable that no one will
want to wipe out the geese who lay the golden eggs. This argument
has historically held little sway with poachers, from desperate
refugees to dictators bankrolling mercenaries, but also
guides U.S. conservation policy.
“With Norway and Japan moving to downlist minke
whales and other species so as to allow international trade in
whale products,” especially from Norway to Japan, “every
pro-whale person needs to worry,” Morast warned. “If Japan
and Norway and their Caribbean supporters win at CITES, the
two whaling nations could quickly force a Commission vote to
accept a resumption of whaling”––exactly as many foresaw in
May 1994, when the U.S. delegation led by Vice President
Albert Gore in effect traded approval of a format for resuming
commercial whaling to win the creation–– on paper––of the
Southern Oceans sanctuary. Gore was at the same time brokering
a $261 million sale of U.S.-made missiles to Norway.
“I personally talked to a number of like-minded
Commissioners during my five days in Grenada,” Morast continued.
“There unfortunately appears to be little hope that this
lot of whale friends will accept or allow environmental threats,
whale-watching, etc., to become a rationale for the IWC to
abolish or significantly stall commerical whaling.”
As Morast pointed out, threats abound. Japan has
unilaterally increased its “research” whaling quotas to the level
of profitability, and is killing minke whales with impunity
inside the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.
Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1994, and
has increased a self-declared quota annually, also without consequence
from the IWC and member states. Pressure is now
building in districts that prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland
needs to keep power to expand the hunt from minkes to orcas.
Norwegian coastal fishers assembled at the January annual
meeting of their umbrella association, Nordmere Notfiskarlag,
blamed allegedly proliferating orcas for the decline of stocks in
the heavily overfished North Sea.
Norwegian fishers and whalers were vocally unappreciative
of Brundtland’s diplomacy in deciding on January 24
against seeking extradition of Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society captain Paul Watson and lieutenant Lisa DiStefano,
who were sentenced in absentia to serve 120 days in jail for
sinking the whaling ship Nybreana, soon refloated, at dockside
on December 26, 1994. The decision probably means
Norway won’t pursue DiStefano for sinking a second whaler,
the Senet, one year later, which was also refloated, and will
not try to extradite Watson to face allegations pertaining to an
August 1995 anti-whaling mission that ended when the
Norwegian patrol ship Andennes rammed the Sea Shepherd
vessel Whales Forever. Norway blamed Watson for the collision,
but wakes and damage to the Whales Forever visible in
photos published by ANIMAL PEOPLE clearly show that
the Andennes had far the greater momentum.
Watson told ANIMAL PEOPLE he was disappointed
that Norway wasn’t pursuing extradition, as he had
volunteered to go to Norway to stand trial, so long as he
could get an extradition hearing in the U.S. first. Knowing
such a hearing would attract international publicity, Norway
backed off.
Canada, not an IWC member, recently authorized
Inuit natives to kill two highly endangered bowhead whales.
Added Morast, “Iceland and Russia continue to make
public rumblings about a return to whaling, particuarly now
that Japan and Norway are getting away with so much”; and
the Bill Clinton/Albert Gore administration “is strongly pushing
for an aboriginal subsistence quota for the Makah tribe.”
The Makah bid to whale is the spearhead for the
World Council of Whalers, an apparently Japanese-financed
10-nation consortium whose first formal international meeting
was held February 26 in Port Alberni, British Columbia.
Greenpeace hits Clinton
Greenpeace campaigner Gerry Leape, Morast said,
informed him that “Greenpeace is going to aggressively target
Clinton and Gore for the administration’s failures on whaling
issues,” centering on “Clinton’s unwillingness to sanction or
diplomatically confront either Japan or Norway.” Leape and
Morast discussed “a possible nationally coordinated Earth Day
1997 protest targeting Clinton and Gore. I think we should get
this moving soon,” Morast recommended. “If nothing else,
we must get the U.S. to force Japan to stop ‘scientific whaling’
in the Southern Oceans sanctuary.”
Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and the
International Fund for Animal Welfare aligned themselves with
Clinton and Gore, against Friends of Animals, the Animal
Welfare Institute, and the Humane Society of the U.S., among
others, during the 1994 tradeoff debate. At that time,
Greenpeace strategist Clif Curtis advised in a memo to senior
staff that, “Greenpeace does not oppose whaling, in principle,”
and “is neither for or against the killing of marine mammals.”
Aware of rising discontent with his record on whales,
Clinton on February 11 took the safest possible high-profile
action to enforce the IWC-imposed international whaling moratorium,
instructing the State Department “to oppose Canadian
efforts to address takings of marine mammals within the newly
formed Arctic Council,” a coalition of whaling nations
believed to be setting itself up as a rival to the IWC, and “to
withhold consideration of any Canadian requests for waivers to
the existing moratorium on the import of seals and/or seal products
into the U.S.,” as well as continuing “to urge Canada to
reconsider its unilateral decision to authorize whaling of endangered
stocks and to authorize whaling outside the IWC.”
Clinton did not use his authority under the 1979 Pelly
Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967 to
impose sanctions on the import of Canadian fisheries products.
He also stated, “I support aboriginal whaling that is managed
through the IWC,” a note of support for the Makah––and a
warning, in Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Pacific
Northwest Coordinator Michael Kundu’s words, that “the government,
in order to retain international credibility, must take
the appropriate actions to protect grey whales,” including “if a
Makah whale hunt were to begin prior to the IWC meeting. In
condemning the Canadian government for this bowhead take,”
Kundu speculated, “the Clinton administration may have inadvertantly
forced itself to write a policy of mandatory enforcement,
should the Makah kill a whale without IWC approval.”
Leape the lion-hearted
Instead of cudgeling Clinton over whales, Leape hit
his administration on March 6 for failing to declare Stellar sea
lions endangered and ban factory trawling off Alaska, to enable
recovery of the pollock stocks that the sea lions depend on.
“It is time for the National Marine Fisheries Service
to do what it should have done eight years ago,” Leape said.
“They are going to study this animal to death.”
Greenpeace first sought endangered status for the
Stellar sea lion in 1989. NMFS finally recognized the sea lions
as threatened––but not yet endangered––in 1990. The Stellar
sea lion population plunged from 140,000 in 1960 to 18,000
today, parallel with a fourfold rise in pollock fishing since
1977, 70% of it caught in the major sea lion habitat.
NMFS was to make a decision as to whether to raise
the Stellar sea lion to endangered status by last October 6. The
overdue decision will be forthcoming soon, NMFS spokesperson
Brian Gorman said.
If the verdict doesn’t favor the Stellar sea lion,
Center for Marine Conservation deputy vice president Robert
Irvin responded, CMC will sue.
A similar battle is simultaneously underway in New
Zealand, where the Hooker sea lion, the rarest of the sea lions,
may be jeopardized by the drowning of at least 85 in squid nets
off two of the Auckland Islands, where 95% of the species
breed. More than 100 Hooker sea lions were drowned last year,
says the Forest and Bird Protection Society. The New Zealand
Ministry of Fisheries is supposed to halt squid fishing each year
when obervers aboard the vessels report limits of either 63 total
sea lions or 32 females are reached.
Blessing the whalers
Still trying to save the whales, Morast concluded, “I
cannot leave discussion of the Grenada meeting without
protesting the ever-increasing Caribbean association with
Japan. We learned that on Sunday, January 26, the government
of St. Vincent sponsored a “blessing of the whaling boats”
on the island of Bequia. St. Vincent now has two whaling
boats, thanks to Japan––one for Athneal Ollivierre, 76, and
the other for a young, enthusiastic replacement,” his nephew
Arson Ollivierre. “The Caribbean is represented by 12 voting
nations at CITES this year. Want to guess how many will support
Japan’s downlisting proposals for minke whales?”
At dinner on his final evening in Grenada, Morast
recounted, he “spent the evening overlooking a long table surrounded
by three Japanese,” including the Japanese whaling
commissioner at the head of the table, “and a eight ever-soaccommodating
Caribbean fishing and whaling minions.”
On February 10, Japanese officials announced that
they would seek approval of small-scale coastal commercial
whaling at a March IWC workshop in Sendai, Japan. The proposed
annual quota would be 50 minke whales, in addition to
the several thousand dolphins the coastal whalers already kill.
Evidence is building that the international whaling
moratorium is helping whales to recover, despite pollution,
collapsing fish stocks, increased shipping, oil spills, and many
other threats to survival. The right whale, so called because it
was the most profitable species to hunt, was among those closest
to extinction when the moratorium took effect in 1986.
However, The Anchorage Daily News reported on February 11,
recently analyzed photos taken last summer by scientist Pam
Goddard from the research vessel Arcturus include glimpses of
the first right whale calf seen in the North Pacific since circa
1850––and showed four right whales together, the first time
more than two have been seen at a time since the mid-1960s.
The whaling moratorium could also be indirectly
helping whale species and locations not actually under IWC
jurisdiction, just by keeping whale-killing internationally
unpopular. One beneficiary may be the isolated belugas of the
St. Lawrence estuary––a population whose presence Canada
denied until circa 1978, and earlier, even bombed and strafed
as an alleged threat to fishing. Now recognized as a tourist
asset, the belugas have been believed to be sliding toward
extinction; Pierre Beland, who has spent much of his life
studying them, declared just last year that they were doomed
by pollution. However, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
announced on January 21 that extensive analysis of film shot on
August 25, 1995 overflights of the St. Lawrence and the
Saguenay rivers had produced a count of 705 belugas, up 34%
from the 525 discovered by similar means in 1992.
The total, indicating a 16% increase from 1990, with
a sharp dip between 1990 and 1992, included actual sightings
of 568 belugas in the St. Lawrence, plus a 15% visibility factor
allowance, and 51 belugas in Baie Ste-Marguerite, a
favorite breeding-and-feeding area off the Saguenay.
Such an increase, combined with poor fishing, could
have brought demands from the fishing industry for a resumption
of beluga killing––but did not, in contrast to the continuing
hatred that Gulf of St. Lawrence fishers show toward seals.
In most places where the whalewatching is good, the
Makah reservation at Neah Bay, Washington, being the most
notable North American exception, the opportunity to view
whales is now recognized as far more lucrative than ever was
the opportunity to kill them. That attitude is spreading to the
rest of the world. South Australia, for instance, on February
27 announced allocations of $2.7 million to improve shorebased
opportunities to watch southern right whales from a point
called the Head of the Bight. Japanese tourists are a significant
part of the already growing traffic.
But whalewatching itself can be a threat to whales,
as competition by vessel operators to get the best views often
drives whales away from shore. Whales have moved farther
out to sea along both the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts during
the past 15 years, despite increasing restrictions on boat operators.
Pressured by lawsuits filed by activist Max Strahan, the
National Marine Fisheries Service agreed February 11 to
require all boats to remain 500 yards from any of the estimated
350 right whales surviving off the Atlantic coast––five times as
far as they must stay from other baleen whales.
NMFS has also formed a Pacific Offshore Cetacean
Take Reduction Team to seek ways of reducing the accidental
bycatch of beaked, pilot, and sperm whales, often killed by
shark and swordfish netters. Sperm whales come under the
IWC; beaked whales and pilot whales, along with dolphins
and porpoises, do not. Beaked whales are often extremely
rare, with several species known only from a handful of sightings.
U.S. fishers kill an average of 39 beaked whales per year,
a seeming handful––unless among the last of their kind.
There is so far no effective international protection
for most small whales. CITES bans traffic in the remains of
small whales recognized as endangered, dead or alive, but
does not address killing them for reasons other than traffic.
The only other legislation protecting small whales internationally
is the U.S. “dolphin-safe” standard for imported tuna,
passed in 1990, in effect since 1992, but targeted for repeal by
both the Clinton/Gore administration and senior Republicans in
Congress. Turned back in the 104th Congress, repeal legislation
has been reintroduced in the 105th.
Mexico meanwhile told the February meeting of the
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, in Santa Marta,
Columbia, that it will no longer release information on violations
of IATTC dolphin protection rules––meaning there will
be no way to monitor Mexican “dolphin-safe” compliance.
The Mexican declaration came as 42 dolphins, three
grey whales, and millions of sardines were found dead near the
Gulf of California port of Culiacan, apparent victims of yet
another threat: NK-19, a cyanide-based dye used by drug traffickers
to mark sites where cargos have been left floating for
seaplane pickup and relay into the U.S.
Greenpeace Mexico director Roberto Lopez was cautious
about his comments, but Homero Aridjis of the Group of
100 suggested the Mexican government might be ignoring NK19
as a cause of cetacean deaths because of the recently
exposed personal involvement of senior Mexican officials in
drug dealing––whom Aridjis had fingered for years. Aridjis
has even argued that the goal of a proposed Mitsubishi salt
evaporation plant at the northern end of the Gulf of California
is not to produce more salt, since salt is not a very lucrative
product, but rather to increase the access of drug barons
allegedly involved in the deal to lightly guarded parts of the
U.S. border. The proposed salt plant is widely viewed as an
ecological threat to the calving habitat of about 300 gray
whales. The total population of gray whales is about 18,000.
Underscoring the lack of protection for small whales,
the Research Center for Marine Mammals counted more than
400 dead dolphins along the western coast of France in
February, believed to have been drowned by the same mackerel
dragnetters who killed about 40 dolphins and porpoises
found on Cornish beaches a month earlier. The toll was the
highest since 500 dead dolphins washed up in 1989.
But there isn’t any way to protect animals entirely
from people with a bad attitude, as the sadistic shooting of a
minke whale off Key West illustrated in early March. Unaware
the whale had been shot multiple times, apparently by several
different gunners, stranding rescuers helped her off a mud flat,
but she washed up dead the next morning. The Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, with an annual budget of $600,000 and
assets of $450,000, almost all in ships, immediately posted a
reward of $7,000. A day later, HSUS, with an annual budget
of $32 million and $45 million in assets, put up $3,000. Some
wire service accounts mentioned HSUS and the total reward
fund of $10,000 without mentioning the Sea Shepherds at all.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.