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Anti-whaling Protests:

Greenpeace Foundation was one of the original and most vocal critics of the whaling industry, and this took the form of exposes and protests against whaling which was suspected (and later proven) to be illegal. In addition to at-sea voyages and undercover investigations of whaling nations, the organization conducted high-profile protests from 1976-1986 when the IWC whaling moratorium began. This included dozens of "peaceful but high profile" confrontations with the Soviet and Japanese whaling industry and its representatives. One example was our discovery, in 1984, that Japan was sending Shonan-class whaling ships to do "recovery darting" research of Brydes whales off Peru.

The Shonan-class ships were already an anachronism: they had been especially built to hunt Fin whales, and were so successful that (along with the illegal meat bought from the soviets by Japan) they had virtually eradicated Fin whales by the '70's.

Brydes' whales are a smaller relative of the Fin, and were not legal to hunt in 1984. That's why this "research" hit our hot buttons: "recovery darting" is a "destructive" research technique in the sense that you get no data unless you chop the whale into tiny pieces. The way it works is that you shoot brass projectiles into a whale's side. If the whale isn't harmed by this, then the dart is recovered if and when the whale is cut up. Since in 1984 nobody was SUPPOSED to be cutting up Brydes whales, the action of shooting them full of "recovery darts" was considered by Greenpeace Foundation to be antisocial at best. And at the very least, we felt it deserved some public attention.

Thus is was that the whaling ships were boarded by Greenpeace Foundation volunteers who climbed the 3 ships' masts and hung out the "Jolly Roger" pirate flag to signify Japan's continued "pirate whaling". These protesters chained themselves aloft while zodiacs traversed the area with signs proclaiming "Japan - Honor the Ban". Miles inland at the Japanese consulate, three female campaigners chained themselves to the flagpole demanding that Japan halt whaling activities. (among them were Sue White and Jessica Malcolm, now members of the Greenpeace Foundation board). All of the protesters were arrested, and all subsequently released.

The skirmishing of such protests can seem almost silly when seen from the late '90's; but it should be borne in mind: this is the sort of activity which created the public pressure for the laws we have today. When Greenpeace Foundation started out, whalers were considered respectable businessmen and protesters were thought of as crazed hippies and Luddites. While there occasionally was a trace of truth in these characterizations, we now know as irrefutable fact that the whalers of Japan and the USSR were conducting criminal collusion to decimate whale species. If today you see fewer protests (and more whales!), it's because the courageous early protesters did their job well: there is now a global moratorium on whaling, and illegal whalers are being tracked with modern forensic tools as the criminals they are. Without the often-dramatic protests of the '70's and early '80's, the world might never have known the truth, and the whales could, literally, have been doomed.

Greenpeace Foundation campaigner Brian Poland flies the Jolly Roger "pirate" flag from the mast of the Shonan Maru #2 and chains himself aloft, to draw international attention to Japan's attention to dart and eventually flense Brydes whales off Peru.
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A steady stream of protests at the Japanese consulates kept every new move by Japan's whalers in the news.
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Eventually, the kids, police, and local governments joined in, and saving the whales became a movement as entire nations joined the fight to save them
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Copyright 1976 - 2010 Greenpeace Foundation, Inc, and DJ White. All rights reserved.