This morning, Greenpeace Germany activists boarded a ship docked in Hamburg, and prevented it from leaving with a cargo of meat from endangered fin whales.
Germany doesn't hunt whales of course. Like almost every country in the world, the German government agrees that commercial whaling should be banned. One company in Iceland does hunt whales, but fin whale meat isn't popular there either. So the fin whales killed in the Iceland hunt are for export to Japan, which has a small, dwindling market for the meat.
By the time it reached Hamburg, the meat from roughly 10 fin whales whale was packed into six (presumably refrigerated) cargo containers. Last Friday, activists, with boats and banners, met the shipment in port upon its arrival. They escorted the ship into the harbour and informed the authorities. We hoped the job was done. But yesterday, the authorities decided to let the shipment go. Activists had to take a stand, or stand by and let their country be used as a transit point for the commercial whale trade.
Action and results
That is why today, four activists climbed onto the ship's mooring lines. Activists in boats were also at the stern of the ship holding a banner which said: "Stoppt den Handel mit Walfleisch" (Stop Trading in Whale Meat).
Suddenly, this was looking like more trouble than the cargo company, Charter Unifeeder, wanted. This shipment was canceled, the meat was not loaded, the activists came off the mooring lines, and the ship will leave port, short six containers of whale meat.
What happens next
Today, activists can be proud for having done their part. It's going to be harder for the whalers to find another ship for their cargo after this.
But governments also need to step in. We want German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) and Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to use this opportunity. A long-term, legally binding ban for whale meat shipments must be put in place. The US already has rules, under the Endangered Species Act, which prevent this kind of thing. Germany and the Netherlands should follow suit.
You can help encourage the German government to take action. Avaaz is rallying its members to contact the German government, and we encourage everyone to help.
UPDATE: The two cargo companies involved say they will make sure the whale meat is returned to Iceland, and will not transport fin whale meat in the future.
UPDATE : The cargo companies kept their word, and the shipment of whale meat has been returned to Iceland. Activists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare were there to mark its return.
Andrew is the Digital Mobilization and Networking team leader at Greenpeace International.