GREENPEACE GETS A WHALE

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1997:

NOME––”Alaskan Inuit give warm
welcome to Greenpeace,” the Nunatsiaq News
headlined on August 8. “Members even
helped some villagers get a bowhead whale,”
added a subhead, “as a group of Greenpeace
activists visit Yu’ik and Inupiat villages to
gather information about global warming.”
Continued Nicole M. Braem of the
Arctic Sounder, as a guest contributor to
Nunatsiaq News, “One representative
explained the group does not oppose whaling
or subsistence hunting, and that they wanted
to hear about any changes in sea ice patterns,
snowfall, and animal abundance. ‘We’re here
to stop pollution, not whaling,’ Greenpeace
campaigner Sally Schullinger explained,”
according to Braem. “A community meeting
was postponed until the next day when
Gambell whalers decided to go get a dead
bowhead several miles from the village. The
village requested assistance from Greenpeace,
and crewmen in two inflatable rafts helped an
umiak skin boat tow the whale back to shore.”


Receiving a verbal account circa
August 26, the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society asked Pacific Northwest coordinator
Michael Kundu, who was already in Alaska,
to gather particulars.
From Seattle, Greenpeace publicist
Mark Floegel told ANIMAL PEOPLE o n
September 2 that, “On July 19, while up in
the Barent Narrows doing research on global
warming, the crew of the Greenpeace vessel
Arctic Sunrise got a call for help at sea. Some
Inuit had a dead bowhead, who died of natural
causes, and couldn’t get it to shore. They
asked for assistance. We gave it. That’s what
my people told me.”
Elaborated Anna Maria Valastro of
Greenpeace in a September 10 e-mail message
to Sea Shepherd member Nick Voth, “The
bowhead had been dead for a couple of days,”
and, she insisted, had not died “by harpoons
and/or bullets. As soon as the whale was
brought to shore,” Valastro continued, “the
villagers cut the outer layer of blubber and
skin for food.”
Asked whether the Inuit would really
want to eat a whale dead of unknown causes
after several days of decomposition, Floegel
told ANIMAL PEOPLE the safety issue
wasn’t for Greenpeace to get into.
Though Greenpeace is still best
known for the daredevil antiwhaling campaigns
led by cofounders Paul Watson, Jet
Johnson, and Bob Hunter more than 20 years
ago, Greenpeace International executives
agreed in a March 1994 internal memo
exposed by ANIMAL PEOPLE that “Greenpeace
does not oppose whaling, in principle,”
and “is neither for nor against the killing of
marine mammals.” Watson left Greenpeace
in 1977 to form the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society, soon joined by Johnson,
Hunter, and many other ex-Greenpeacers.
But more than just symbolic betrayal
disturbed Watson about the incident. Hunter,
a longtime reporter for various Canadian
media, was initially told no such incident
ever happened, while the account Floegel
gave ANIMAL PEOPLE seemed sanitized
beside the version published in the Alaskan
native newspapers.
“Because the whale was butchered
and forensic evidence destroyed,” Watson
said in a September 10 press release, “we cannot
confirm if the whale was harpooned or
shot,” instead of dying of natural causes.
“The whale was, however, an official ‘take’
landed by the Inupiat people of St. Lawrence
Island. Sea Shepherd has presented this information
to the National Marine Fisheries
Service, and an official investigation has
begun. It is illegal for non-natives to participate
in any step of an International Whaling
Commission-sanctioned whale hunt,” Watson
continued. “Whether the whale was killed by
a gun or a heart attack, Greenpeace had no
right to illegally assist in ‘taking’ this critcally
endangered species.”
“The whales are pretty well saved,
environmental historians and top officials in
several other national groups say,” New York
T i m e s reporter Carey Goldberg offered in a
September 15 explanation of ongoing
Greenpeace USA retrenchment. In early
September, Greenpeace USA laid off 335 of
400 U.S. staffers, including Floegel. U.S.
membership has fallen to 400,000, a third of
the 1991 peak, while donations are down
from $45 million to just $25 million.
But a more accurate view of the
Greenpeace malaise might be that while neither
the whales nor any other marine mammals
really are saved, the organization developed
weak knees when forced to choose circa 1977
between ecological goals and political correctness
toward minorities who claimed a right to
kill whales, seals, and furbearing animals.
Dropping antifur and anti-sealing campaigns
by 1986, and taking a mainstream line on
“subsistence” whaling, Greenpeace compromised
itself into irrelevance. Radicals shifted
support to Sea Shepherd, or to animal rights
groups; conservatives still support the same
hunter/conservationist organizations they
always did; and as Greenpeace aged, leaving
behind old glories, a new generation grew up
regarding it as just another Establishment
institution.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *