America's Whale Alliance Tours the West Coast
The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is proud to be a supporting member of America's Whale Alliance (AWA). This coalition of over 80 US groups was founded by Ocean Defense International in response to the apparent change of direction of the US government regarding its opposition to the resumption of commercial whaling. AWI Quarterly readers may remember that although the US delegation to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) claims it opposes commercial whaling, it is actively negotiating the completion of the Revised Management Scheme (RMS), the rules for commercial whaling. We maintain that one cannot oppose commercial whaling while actively negotiating the rules for its resumption.
In February, AWA decided to hit the streets to spread the message that "The Whales are not Saved" and the US government has a pivotal role in ensuring the animals' survival. The result was the unprecedented "Stop Whaling!" bus tour, which garnered incredible support from West Coast residents in April. A 35-ft. long California municipal bus was transformed into a whale bus by dedicated volunteers who worked tirelessly for weeks. It was converted to run on bio-diesel and looked splendid when topped off with AWI's inflatable whale, the granddaughter of the original "Flo" of "Save the Whales" fame, provided by our good friend, John Perry.
The bus became a traveling exhibit, decked out with audio-visual equipment showing short films provided by the Whaleman Foundation, and playing whale songs courtesy of the Cetacean Society International. Posters describing whale species and the threats they face lined the internal walls. A mobile kid's station included touchable models of the great whales and crafting equipment to encourage the childrens' creativity. The all-volunteer crew included a staff teacher to lead the children's programs and dedicated whale enthusiasts on hand at all the events to answer questions about whales and the threats they face. Various literature was distributed, including an anti-whaling leaflet and a postcard for concerned citizens to complete and send to President Bush.
The tour kicked off at Walker Elementary School in Ashland, Ore., where Mayor John Morrison presented a proclamation opposing the adoption of the RMS and supporting the continuation of the moratorium on commercial whaling. The tour purposefully coincided with Earth Day events, including WorldFest in Van Nuys and celebrations in Berkeley and Santa Monica, Calif. At each stop, the bus and Flo were very successful—thousands of people toured the exhibits, signing postcards and a petition against the adoption of the RMS.
City leaders also gave their support. In Santa Monica, AWA was presented with a Certificate of Commendation from city council member Kevin McKeown. In Santa Cruz, Mayor Mike Rotkin proclaimed April 22 as "Whale Conservation Day," and presented yet another proclamation against the resumption of commercial whaling to the team. AWA visited numerous schools, including Westlake Elementary School, Arcata Elementary School and Garfield Elementary School. Students at Humboldt University heard about the tour and invited the team to come to a whale rally. In Newport, Ore., the group marched in a city parade. Media coverage was great, with interviews and spots on various local television stations and newspapers.
The IWC meeting is held June 20-24 in Ulsan, South Korea. The future of the Commission as a whale conservation organization may rest on its outcome, and we will provide a full report in the fall issue of the AWI Quarterly. Whatever the result, AWA is planning a cross-country trip, followed by an East Coast bus tour next spring. Please contact AWI if you would like to receive postcards for yourself, family and friends to send to President Bush calling upon the US government to withdraw its support for the RMS, and urging the use of all applicable domestic laws to enforce the existing moratorium. If you would like to participate at one of the bus tour events planned for next year, please contact us and we will try and make a stop in your town or school.