The Soviet Union’s role in this week’s efforts to free the trapped whales near Point Barrow, Alaska, grew in part from the activities of Greenpeace International chairman David McTaggart’s East-West Foundation.
According to Andrew Davis, assistant media director for Greenpeace USA, the effort fulfilled a pledge McTaggart secured from the Soviets last year for help in Greenpeace activities.
Speaking from the organization’s Washington headquarters on Thursday, Davis denied charges that the Soviet participation was nothing more than a public relations effort designed to divert attention from other Soviet whaling activities.
“The Soviets gave up commercial whaling as of July, 1987,” Davis noted. “The whaling they do is subsistance farming for their native people, just like is allowed for (Alaska’s) Inuit people.”
Describing the rescue both as “more a humanitarian effort than a conservation effort” and a “media circus,” Davis said Greenpeace’s challenge now is to channel the attention drawn to the whales.
“We feel that if the attention that was focused on these two whales would only be focused on the issue of whaling as a whole, then maybe truly the whales could be saved,” he said, decrying whaling that continues to be pursued by countries such as Japan and Iceland in the name of scientific research.
“It’s an incredible story,” Davis said, “the cooperation between people who are usually adversaries, but how much these efforts will actually do to preserve the whales remains to be seen. . . . The whalers and their exploding tip harpoon guns are the real threat to the whales, not the pack ice in Barrow.”