Greenpeace Senester students deliver letters to the embassies of International Whaling Commission members in Washington, D.C., June 4, 2012, urging them to break with Japan and support the Southern Atlantic Whaling Sanctuary.
Written by Alex Ryan and Bruna Bouhid
Earlier this week, we Greenpeace Semester students took to the streets in Washington, D.C., determined to make a difference in the fight to protect the worlds whales. With images of illegal commercial whaling fresh in our minds after learning about their plight, we wrote letters to embassies urging their countries to support whale sanctuaries at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Since 1986 there has been a moratorium on commercial whaling. However, countries such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland continue to illegally kill whales under the guise of research. Establishing sanctuaries is one way to ensure the full protection of whales. The South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) is one such sanctuary that is currently on the table and Greenpeace is doing what it can to make sure it gets passed. Japan has other plans.
When SAWS came up for a vote last year, Japan led 20 other countries in a walkout to stall the vote. It worked, but the sanctuary is up for vote again this year. Those other countries were the targets of our letters.
Throughout the day, we hand-delivered our letters to five embassies and mailed over twenty letters demanding that the countries ignore Japans pressure and vote for SAWS. Along the way, we garnered a lot of attention from citizens. At almost every crosswalk, we were greeted with a thumbs-up from a passing driver. Driven by an outpouring of public support, we marched the entire day and ended on Capitol Hill for a group photo.
At the Capitol, we ran into Dr. George Sedberry from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and inquired about what else could be done to save the whales. He immediately stressed the importance of sanctuaries and made it clear that they were absolutely key to protecting whale populations. In other words, we were right on track.
Reflecting on the day, student Michelle Allen concluded, Im exhausted, but I know we made a difference for this campaign and put some pressure on those countries to do the right thing and vote for SAWS. Its going to be exciting to see what happens at the IWC in June.
Want to lend your voice to this campaign? Encourage pro-whale countries as they push for the creation of the SAWS by signing here: http://www.beasonefoundation.org/whalesanctuary-letter.
Mary Sweeters is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace USA. She works to fight the undue influence of the oil industry in solidarity with communities affected by oil extraction, pollution, and climate change, and to advocate for a just transition to a clean energy economy. She is from Sonoma, California.