IFAW launches U.S. whale campaign

Tuesday, 18 April, 2006
Washington D.C.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) today joined with a coalition of national conservation organizations to launch a new national campaign to heighten awareness of growing commercial whaling in violation of a 20-year-old international ban. The coalition is calling on the Bush Administration to more aggressively oppose Japan's efforts to gain international approval for their whale slaughter at the coming meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) this June.

On Friday, April 14, 2006 Japan's whaling fleet returned from the Southern Ocean with a record 863 whales, including 853 minke whales and 10 critically endangered fin whales. This is nearly double Japan's kill in these same waters last year.

"The massive toll documented with the return of Japan's whaling fleet Friday leaves no doubt that illegal whaling in the name of science is a growing problem that cannot be ignored if these magnificent animals, the largest on earth, are to survive for future generations to see and enjoy," explained Greg Wetstone, IFAW director of U.S. Operations. "Today we launch a national campaign. In the coming weeks IFAW and its allies will be doing everything we can to educate Americans about the renewed threat of commercial whaling, and to mobilize support for stronger U.S. opposition to Japan's aggressive whaling program."

Chris Matthews, "Hardball" host and an IFAW board member, and renowned whale scientist Roger Payne joined Greg Wetstone and IFAW President Fred O'Regan to launch the campaign at an event today in Washington, DC. Matthews moderated a discussion on the plight of whales, public attitudes toward whaling and what could be done to end this threat to whales.

"Whales today are under tremendous stress as a result of several types of human activity," said Dr. Roger Payne, Ocean Alliance founder and a global leader in cetacean research. "Military sonar, fishing gear entanglements and global warming all pose a huge threat to whale populations struggling to recover from historic commercial whaling. The added toll of Japan's growing commercial whaling will simply be too much for many whale species. This continuing slaughter, and the ominous Japanese effort to gain international approval for commercial whaling, are serious threats to the survival of whales, and should be opposed in every way possible before it's too late."

Japan has slaughtered almost 10,000 whales in the past two decades, and has recently become especially aggressive in its whaling. Japan more than doubled the number of whales it killed last year in the protected waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and expanded its hunt to include endangered fin whales. And Japan has announced an intention to kill still more whales next year, and extend its hunt to also include threatened humpback whales. Perhaps most disturbingly, Japan is using international aid in an effort to enlist greater support at the IWC. Japan is hoping buy enough votes to relax international whale protection safeguards when the IWC meets this June in St. Kitts.

While the U.S. has long formally opposed Japanese whaling, IFAW and its allies are urging the Bush Administration to adopt a more aggressive U.S. posture in opposing Japan's illegal whaling activities and its campaign to prevail at the IWC.

Eight conservation organizations today released a letter to the President urging the that the Administration deploy "American diplomacy, trade and resources...to oppose so called 'scientific whaling.'" More specifically, the groups urge that the U.S. oppose Japan's bid for permanent membership on the     United Nations Security Council until Japan respects international laws for the protection of whales. Participating organizations, in addition to IFAW, include: Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Humane Society of the United States, the Natural Resources Defence Council, Oceana, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. (Copies of the letter are available upon request.)

"IFAW is launching a national media campaign in the U.S. that will be a crucial component of our international efforts to protect whales," added Fred O'Regan. "The goal of the advertising campaign is to re-engage the general public on the plight of whales."

A two phase series of TV ads will begin airing this week in Washington, New York, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Charleston, South Carolina. Billboards will be on display in New York's Times Square and on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles throughout the month of May, and a series of three subway ads will be posted in Washington's Metro system for the same period. In addition, IFAW is organizing events in Miami, Charleston and New York around port visits by its marine mammal research vessel, a 72 foot custom designed sloop called the Song of the Whale. (Copies of the TV ads, metro ads and billboards are available on request.)

To learn more about threats to whales and how you can help, go to www.stopwhaling.org

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