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AUGUST 4, 2002
6:23 PM
CONTACT:  Greenpeace USA
Gary Skulnik 202-319-2492
Whales in Peril: More Whales Are Lost to Norwegian and Japanese Whaling Than in Beachings
Current Beaching in Cape Cod Reminds the World that Whales Need Protection from Commercial Whaling Practices
WASHINGTON - August 4 - It is always heartbreaking to see whales in distress. The vivid photographs and video footage of the helpless pilot whales on Cape Cod have been especially upsetting to people all over the world. Despite tremendous rescue attempts by seasoned whale rescuers and vacationers alike, the whales never made it back into the ocean.

No one really knows why this type of beaching occurs or why this behavior is so common among whales. However, the Cape Cod beaching reminds us of just how fragile these great creatures are and why we must do everything we can to protect their natural environment.

Right now, a much larger threat to total whale populations is continued commercial whaling. Japan, Norway, Iceland and possibly other countries that engage in commercial whaling are responsible for the deaths of over 1500 whales each year. Even though a moratorium on commercial whaling has been in effect since 1986, Japan and Norway continue to kill almost 30 times the number of whales that washed up on Cape Cod. They do this without ever having to answer for their actions.

Pro-whaling countries are desperate to overturn the ban on commercial whaling. Japan has spent $323 million in fisheries development aid to buy the votes of member countries within the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The clearest illustration of Japan's vote buying came at last May's IWC meeting, when Japan and countries under its influence blocked the renewal of an aboriginal subsistence quota for Alaskan Natives to punish the U.S. for its strong stance against commercial whaling.

Whales have also been suffering more recent setbacks. On July 15th, Norway exported eight tons of meat and blubber to Iceland in an attempt to undermine CITES, the global convention that regulates trade in endangered species. This came the same day that the Bush Administration allowed the Navy to start using its low frequency sonar system, which could cause fatal internal damage to whales. The 55 pilot whales stranding on Cape Cod just two weeks later is yet another hit to endangered whale populations.

Despite threats such as commercial whaling, military testing, overfishing and pollution, there is hope. It was touching to see the numerous volunteers, marine experts and even young children rushing to help the stranded pilot whales. And while sadly these whales could not be saved, others still have a chance.

Greenpeace has been leading the global fight to protect whales since 1975. But Greenpeace alone cannot save all the whales from the increasing number of threats they face. Making the oceans safe for whales depends on people worldwide.


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