Battles Won, but War Not Over, to Protect Whales
Photos courtesy Andrew Christie
It seems like the ink is barely dry on this summer's victory to protect whales. But activists are already mobilizing for the next battle.
In June, the Santa Lucia Chapter celebrated after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) declined to lift a moratorium on commercial whaling. However, the IWC's resolution included a "one-year cooling off period," which means the tug-of-war on commercial whaling -- a back and forth that started after a 1986 moratorium -- might resume in the not-too-distant future.
"The nations that continue to exploit the loopholes in the moratorium and kill whales [Japan, Norway, and Iceland] have been loud and aggressive in their efforts to bring back full-scale whaling. It's safe to assume they're going to try again," said Andrew Christie, Santa Lucia Chapter Director.
Several Sierra Club chapters had a major hand in the 16 rallies that took place on May 23 along 15 California coastal counties. More than 1,000 people showed up. At Morro Bay alone, more than 400 people signed the petition to preserve the moratorium. The overall coordinating group was the Western Alliance for Nature/WAN Conservancy.
Why the strong turn out? One reason was the U.S. government's lackadaisical approach to the IWC negotiations.
“Attendees were incredulous that the Obama administration was supporting a return to commercial whaling,” Christie said. “Nearly every attendee signed the petition, a postcard, a prayer flag, and anything else site organizers came up with that'd convey a firm ‘no’ to our government.”
Despite the U.S.'s search for a compromise with Japan, Norway, and Iceland, the moratorium stayed intact. When the IWC revisits the issue, activists want the U.S. to take a sharper approach.
“Both these bills have been stalled in committee, as is the habit of our federal legislature. All Sierra Club members should urge them to move these bills out of committee and onto the floor for a vote by the House and the Senate,” Christie said.
Meanwhile, the California legislature this week passed a resolution calling on the federal government to oppose lifting the IWC's moratorium.
One reason whaling stirs activists so much is because seeing whales in person is such a memorable experience. Asked about his relationship with whales, Christie said, “I had the experience of reaching out and touching one of the people-friendly gray whales that swim up to meet the small boats full of tourists in those Baja California lagoons. They seem to enjoy checking out the people in between mating or calving.
"I also had the pleasure of crewing on a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling campaign about 15 years ago," he said. "I wish I’d seen a whale, but we were preoccupied with getting shot at, depth-charged, and rammed by the Norwegian Coast Guard."