Minke whale steaks barbecued in peaceful protest against Greenpeace in Iceland
Polls have shown up to 80% of the Icelandic population in favour
of whaling before the arrival of the Greenpeace ship on Thursday
last week. But Greenpeace surprised many by not rushing directly
out to confront whaling ships, and instead choosing to dialogue,
and to make an offer to the government to promote nature tourism as
an alternative to whaling.
Over the weekend, an Icelandic State Radio and Television poll
asking if the government should accept that offer yielded an
encouraging majority "yes" response.
Iceland has been an increasingly popular tourist magnet, and a
burgeoning Whale watching industry has taken hold. More than
277,000 people visited Iceland in 2001. That's almost more than the
entire population of the island. It's estimated that in that year,
one third of those visitors went whale-watching. According to ENN, a
dozen firms have sprung up in Iceland over the past decade,
generating around US$8.5 million in revenue in 2001. Commercial
whaling brought in US$3 million to US$4 million annually between
1986 and 1989, when commercial hunts were stopped.
But Iceland isn't welcoming Greenpeace with open arms quite yet.
"Once we had eggs thrown at us, and when they ran out of eggs, they
threw red peppers" said Erika Augustinsson. "Then on Friday we had
some boys arranging a whale meat barbecue at the quay side in
Reykjavik, just in front of us.
Friday evening they showed up with a portable barbecue, the next
day they turned up with a bigger barbecue. So Frode, our whale
campaigner, walked up and invited everyone onboard and was met with
a suspicious gaze.
One hour later all of the boys asked if they could join the ship
to sail around Iceland. So we are making some new friends on our
The Rainbow Warrior will make a call in the port of Isafjordur
on the North side of the island shortly, continuing in its efforts
to listen to the people of Iceland, and to explain why we believe
the government should give up whaling forever. "It's important that
we talk to people one to one, to get them beyond the perception
that some have of us as terrorists, or culturally naive, or
anti-Icelandic. We're none of those things. We've never used
violence, we've never rammed or sunk a whaling ship. We ourselves
are from many cultures, and have learned to work out our
differences with respect. And when it comes to hating Iceland,
Iceland is actually a model nation environmentally in many
respects, and a strong ally to Greenpeace internationally on
several issues -- from ocean pollution to fisheries management to
climate change -- that whaling needs to be seen as the anomaly it
is" said Frode Pleym, a Norwegian whale activist aboard the ship.
"We think Iceland will benefit more from positioning themselves as
the "Land of the Whale" and bringing tourists over to watch living
whales, rather than hunting them."
13,000 activists so far have also written to
Iceland's ambassadors to the US, Germany, and the UK asking
them to reconsider. An appeal to cyberactivists and supporters
asking them to
express an interest in visiting Iceland if the government stops
whaling has been generating nearly 1000 responses a day. We intend
to keep the Icelandic tourist industry, which opposes whaling,
apprised of the number of would-be tourists which want to visit
The High North Alliance, a pro-whaling lobby group which has
been an outspoken critic of Greenpeace described the offer as
"Mafia Tactics" in a Reuter's
report. "Balderdash" said Erika Augustinsson, "I think most
Icelanders appreciate our right to express our view and seek to
convince others, even when they disagree. We generally find that
when people have all the facts, they make the right choice. That's
not Mafia tactics, it's democracy."