The important thing to note about the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is that although it exists as the singularly peak agency invested with the power to make decisions on the fate of Cetaceans (and is therefore perceived by many in the world as a competent institution acting in the name of conservation) the IWC is in fact a mostly dysfunctional process lacking in any real authority to uphold protection decrees made on behalf of whales.
This is in no small part due to the IWC’s original charter back in 1946 when many of the great whales were being relentlessly blasted into extinction. The IWC’s intention of creating some restraint to merely maintain a ruthlessly cruel commercial hunt into the future now lies at complete odds with the wish of the world at large to see whales and dolphins be given their right to oceanic freedom.
Unfortunately year in and year out, despite the efforts of many countries speaking up on behalf of whales, non-lethal science and international whale-watch enterprises, and despite the declaration of sanctuaries, specific species protection listings and trading bans, the sullen killing continues unabated.
Whaling should have been wound down out of existence by the end of the 19th Century instead of being escalated by human greed into the 20th. Yet we here we are in the 21st Century, in a new interconnected global community, fully aware of our precariously balanced place in a now seriously compromised global ecology, still having to deal with this selfish brutal assault on the benign, big-hearted keepers of the sea. A noble and ancient race who, despite the genocide and trauma we are still inflicting on them, somehow keep on offering us friendship and trust.
It is notably three recalcitrant countries Japan, Norway and Iceland which are betraying this friendship and trust instead of helping forge a unified International Whale Celebration event each year, wherein the world could respectfully honour the Cetaceans and in fact take the time to respectfully apologize to them as well.
The world must not be fooled by apparently successful outcomes at IWC, into thinking whales are being saved there. Despite the best efforts of so many dedicated NGOs, veteran campaigners, researchers and whale-watch operators, the harsh reality is that the whales are not being saved there.
Not while the blood boats and the factory ship of Japan return each Antarctic summer to slaughter whales in the IWC declared Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In the name of IWC sanctioned ‘science’.
Not when Norway, despite any objection at the IWC, sneaks up on pregnant Minke whales and shoots them in the back.
Not while Iceland murders the endangered Fin whale, globally protected by the IWC.
Not when so called ‘small cetaceans’ dont even rate a mention at the IWC.
Not when the tens of thousands of Dalls porpoises massacred every year in Japan dont warrant consideration by the IWC, despite this being the biggest single slaughter of Cetaceans in the world.
Not while dolphins herded into the bays of Taiji in Japan or Sandi in the Faroes to be stabbed and slashed, are ignored at the IWC.
Not while the foetuses torn from their mothers’ wombs are excluded from the counts declared at the IWC.
Not while dolphins, incarcerated in concrete tanks, suffering a miserable decline into early death at the hands of commercial enslavement entertainment agencies, are not on the agenda of the IWC.
And on and on it goes, a catalog of corruption issues such as bribery (usually in the form of cash and prostitutes, conditional overseas development “aid,” false data along with filibuster tactics, trade-offs and ambit claims to divide the like-minded) stall processes and block important agenda items.
A litany of obstructions wherein high level scientific committee conservation recommendations are roundly ignored, infractions thrown into the too-hard basket, NGO “civil society” contribution in a week long meeting limited to 3 speakers at 10 minutes each, whaling delegation walk-outs (as in IWC Berlin 03) and the chairman at this recent IWC in Morocco, declaring a 2 day recess within hours of the conference opening!
And although in Greenland many whales killed every year under “Aboriginal license” end up on little plastic trays in supermarket freezers, a new permit, was issued this year, a death warrant on 9 Humpback whales, globally ‘protected’ along with 19 of their ‘endangered’ Fin whale friends.
Nice words, same catastrophe. Alongside erudite gems from whaling delegates, such as “Minkes are cockroaches of the sea” (Japan); “Minke whales are rats of the ocean” (Norway). Stupid words, same catastrophe. The same disregard for life manifests twisted claims in the name of tradition and outdated practices, to justify defying global contemporary shared cultural compassion and Earthcare.
The fact is, you could spend a day inside the plenary room listening to all the blah and not ever know what the hell is being discussed … the magnificent Whale reduced to numbers and sub-clauses, stripped of the honour of her warm-blooded beauty and emotions. Separating her from her newborn child, warm milk in the sea. Separating her from her partner singing a hauntingly beautiful and plaintive song in a column of blue light. Reducing her to writhing agony in a sea full of blood and vomit, her child a traumatised orphan. An utter disrespect of great Ocean Mother.
At the Alaska IWC 2007, a smirking Norwegian whaling delegate said, “Let’s not have this discussion descend into a story about the cute and cuddly.”
The daily broadsheet ECO put out by Earth Island Institute crew at the IWC helps bring the perspective back to the whales, clarify the issues, and highlight the whalers’ fabrications and distortions. Outside the conference center in Agadir, the walls were lined with beautiful photos of smiling, happy whales in an ultimate act of subversive hypocrisy to hoodwink the perception of the passing public, where the truth would have instead shown the whales harpooned and eviscerated, enslaved and commodified.
ECO published a cartoon of an elder whale saying to two horrified youngsters “The good news is that scientists say your mother was in perfect health before she was harpooned. The bad news is that she’s now Japanese dog food”. The original caption was “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I’m your last role model”
To top it all off, at the end of a week of death warrants issued, and NGOs struggling to hold the line, whale killing countries can simply declare disagreement with an edict and arrogantly walk out of the IWC back to their bloody business as usual, with only the Sea Shepherd navy in effect taking direct intervention action to stop them and uphold natural sanity.
The IWC is effective in bringing the world’s attention briefly to the plight of the whales, but unfortunately, it is unsuccessful in ending the blight of whaling once and for all.
So in the end, it comes down to every one of us doing something and drawing together to overwhelm the dark heartlessness arraigned against the whales and dolphins, the marine mammals, the sea. Even a supposedly small thing of embracing the vegan/vegetarian ideal is a huge contribution to a collective shift away from abuse of the animal kingdom.
In whatever way, big or small, unified in heartfulness and light, we have the power and the gift of human goodness to stand up, speak up, and change ourselves for the great friendship, communion and care we can share with our oceanic kin.
There are plenty of good examples of people everywhere doing just that.
1,000 locals and tourists marching and holding silent vigil against dolphin imprisonment in Turkey;
30,000 people in Taiwan pledging the money to buy and protect the 200 hectare wetland habitat of the Chinese white dolphin under threat of draining and development;
A.G. Sano painting 23,000 dolphins on walls throughout the Philippines after seeing The Cove by tireless dolphin defender Ric O’Barry;
The likes of Sidney Holt, Roger Payne, Jean Paul Gouin, Paul Spong and Mick McIntyre and other longtime campaigners for the whales; Trish and Wally Franklin of Oceania Project helping initiate the the Humpback Icon Project; Paul Watson’s courageous defence of the marine world; S4C’s initiation of the surfers’ ceremony with OPS crew at the Cove in Taiji, and the Transparentsea voyage in the company of Austral Humpbacks, calling on Australia to remain strong as a defender of Cetaceans and a gatekeeper to the great Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
In summation, I write as one of the handful of us who stood everyday outside the IWC in Agadir and raised our voices and banners for every whale and dolphin on Planet Ocean. When Iceland’s infamous whale killer sneered at us as “only 9 of you” he seriously underestimated how many we really are. We were representing the vast majority of the world, and S4C is calling on all surf crew because we are 100% united on this right. Right?
If ever we needed a thousand people to turn up outside the next IWC for that one week that the international media throws a spotlight on whales, it is right now. Please recognize you have the right to be there and hold space for our mates in trouble in the sea. Please get it marked on the calendar, gather your friends and bring your surfboards right on in. Your board is your perfect banner of support for the dolphins and it is your statement of your personal and collective authority. The same holds true of dive crew and your dive gear. Sailors and your jenny. Bodyboarders and your pesky lid.
Surfers for Cetaceans is calling all ocean crew to gather not only wherever we can in support of whales and dolphins, but at the next International Whale Celebration to be held in the same week as the IWC. See you there with your boards in solidarity for total Whale Freedom.
Not enough time to do everything.
Plenty of time to do anything.
Just enough time to do something.