Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why President Obama Needs to Block the Backroom Deal on International Whaling

By Mark J. Palmer and Timothy Feder
Earth Island Institute

Plans are underway to gut the international whaling moratorium first approved in 1982 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The secret IWC deal, originally negotiated by the Bush administration, would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to continue their slaughter of whales despite the existing IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. In fact, the deal would allow those countries to continue their illegal whale slaughter for commercial gain under the approval of the IWC, including whaling in the southern Antarctic Ocean whale sanctuary designated by the IWC.

Japan has been flaunting the IWC treaty by issuing “scientific” permits as a cover for their ongoing commercial whaling operations. Norway and Iceland objected to the moratorium and have continued their whaling operations despite the international whaling moratorium.

A large coalition of international environmental and animal welfare organizations recently completed an analysis of the newly proposed IWC deal and are uniformly opposing it.1 The deal, as currently formulated, would legitimize commercial whaling practices, allows continued illegal trade in whale products, and would undermine historic efforts to end international whaling. These quotas would be approved for ten years. Other nations, such as South Korea, are already complaining that the deal does not include their country returning to commercial whaling.

While the proposed deal reputedly includes safeguards in the form of quotas for whaling nations, the sham “quotas” actually do nothing to protect potentially endangered species of whales and are based on commercial demands by the whaling nations, not scientific analysis of how many whales can be killed without detriment to the population.

A recent scientific study published in Marine Mammal Science indicates that most “precipitous declines” in populations of whales (a decline of 50% or more in 15 years) would not be detected.

In fact, there would be a 75% chance that precipitous declines in large whales would not be detected.

To anyone concerned about protecting our environment and the world’s oceans, this proposal is a chilling indictment of IWC’s backroom politics and a failure of U.S. leadership in efforts to protect whales and marine mammals.

The devastating impact of this new proposal would seriously undermine efforts to protect endangered whale populations. This cynical deal would lift current restrictions and encourage other nations to begin whaling operations.

The IWC will meet in Morocco in June to vote on the secret deal, although the final wording of the agreement is still under wraps (especially the number of whales Japan, Norway and Iceland will get to kill).

The Obama administration needs to know that this deal is unacceptable and a sell-out to all who are concerned about marine conservation and protecting our environment.

While the U.S. IWC representatives profess not to officially support the proposed deal until they see the final wording, insiders have knowledge that they in fact helped write the deal and are actively supporting it behind the scenes with other countries.

This duplicity undercuts the historic U.S. position of support for the moratorium on all commercial whaling.

(On the positive side, the Obama Administration recently submitted comments requesting a ban on trade in whale meat as part of the IWC Deal.)

It is not clear why the Obama Administration would risk its environmental reputation by lending its support for such a dangerous and disingenuous international agreement.

We call on the Obama Administration to reject the proposed deal and instruct our U.S. IWC representative Monica Medina to block any agreement or administrative efforts to gut or limit the current international moratorium on commercial whaling.


You can contact President Obama at or phone the White House comment line: 202-456-1111 or contact your Congressional representatives at

Urge them to oppose the IWC Deal allowing commercial whaling for ten years. The US position should be that Japan, Norway and Iceland must end their illegal whaling activities NOW. Thank you.

1 List of environmental and marine conservation organizations supporting the NGO analysis of the proposed IWC agreement includes: American Cetacean Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, Asociación do Biologia Marina Guatemala, Australians for Animals, California Gray Whale Coalition, Campaign Whale, Campaigns Against the Cruelty to Animals, Centro De Conservacion Cetacea, Cetacean Society International, Comite Ballena Azul Nicaragua, The Cousteau Society, Dolphin Connection, Environmental Investigation Agency, Equilibrio Azul,, Fundacion Promar, Fundacion Yubarta, Global Ocean, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International League for Protection of Cetaceans, Irish Seal Sanctuary, LegaSeas International, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Care, Ocean Sentry

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Busting the LA Sushi Restaurant Serving Whale Meat

By Crystal Galbraith

While “The Cove” movie was in theaters this past summer, I was a Cove Captain for the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign in Los Angeles, facilitating question-and-answer sessions and helping spread the word about the movie and the issue.

While attending the screenings, I met and befriended Associate Producer Charles Hambleton. He informed me one day that there was a sushi restaurant in Santa Monica that was serving whale meat. We then decided to go undercover and try to get samples of the whale meat for testing. The first operation involved a small team of people that included Charles and I.

We called ahead and made a reservation for October 1, 2009, and on that date, a friend of mine and I went to The Hump restaurant to eat dinner. My purse was wired with a hidden camera that had its own audio, but we also had a separate audio device inside the purse. I am vegan; my friend however, is not, so this was definitely a sacrifice for me! We went in and ordered the Omakase, which translates to “it’s up to you” and basically means you put your meal in the hands of the sushi chef. This is usually the most expensive dining experience you can have at a sushi restaurant, and at this particular restaurant it usually costs about $150. We wound up spending quite a bit more.

“Crystal Galbraith tabling for Save Japan Dolphins and The Cove movie in Los Angeles.”

We went in and sat down, and I placed my purse on the table in order to get a shot of the plate of whale when they brought it out. We then began eating; they brought us out plate after plate of high quality sashimi. We told them that we like the most exotic items and that we would try anything, along with eating as much as we possibly could so that they could see we were willing to spend a lot of money. Over the course of about 3 hours of eating, they kept asking us if we were full and how two petit girls could eat so much food, but we just said it was so good that we couldn’t stop.

We then asked for the whale, which we ordered in Japanese, ‘kujira’. The waitress said she needed to ask the chef if they had it -- we think she was really asking the chef it he thought he could trust us. She came back and told us that they only give this to their VIP customers and that they don’t just give it to anyone, but that they were willing to serve it to us. At this point our bill was probably at about $650, which is significantly more than most people spend on Omakase at The Hump.

This was the point where I felt the most nervous; I was pretty shocked that they even agreed to serve it to us having never seen us there before this evening. Since I had the camera and audio equipment in my purse, I had my friend’s purse on the chair next to me and inside it there were Ziploc bags and paper napkins so that I could discreetly take samples. After the waitress brought out the plate of whale sashimi, the chefs and waiters were watching us; I think just to see if we liked it, not because they were suspicious. After we both took a piece and ate it, they went back to whatever they were doing and stopped watching. I told my friend to touch her leg to mine under the table when they weren’t looking and then to take her leg away when they looked so that I would know when it was safe to sneak the samples. She complied, and, while they weren’t looking, I put a couple pieces of whale sashimi on a paper napkin next to my plate and then grabbed it and stuffed it into the Ziploc bag in her purse that was next to me on the chair.

After we finished eating, we paid the bill, which came to about $900, and left the restaurant. Charles and our team were in a car in the parking lot, waiting with ice packs to preserve the whale meat. We then sent the samples off to Dr. Scott Baker for testing, and the results came back stating that it was Sei whale, an endangered species that Japan still hunts as part of its so-called “scientific” program. This is when we brought in Louie Psihoyos of Oceanic Preservation Society and decided to also bring in federal agents.

“Crystal Galbraith (left) with The Cove’s Louie and Vicki Psihoyos at the Genesis Awards, March 2010.”

We did the same exact thing two more times in February with Louie and the crew in the car parking lot listening on a transmitter to everything going on. I would also use my phone to communicate with Louie via text message. The federal agents were also in the parking lot waiting in another car and, during those next two trips, we came out with the evidence and passed it along to the feds. They then got it tested by a federal government lab and also concluded that it was Sei whale meat.

Now The Hump restaurant has closed with an online apology about serving endangered whale meat in violation of US federal law. We understand OPS and other groups are looking at other potential sushi restaurants that may be selling illegal whale meat.

This goes to show what just a few people can do to make a real difference!