Recently John Gulland of the Department of Fisheries, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, suggested placing "responsibility for the whales in the United Nations, and specifically in an International Whaling Authority. The strength of the Authority would rest on three provisions: annual kill quotas by species, annual kill quotas by nations and inspection by the Authority. The quotas would rest on research, and the whole scheme would rest on education and goodwill and world-wide reverence for Life." This plan would involve nations giving up their individual rights. Are we ready for such a plan?
The second reason I took this action was that all whale products, with the exception of the meat, can be produced by other means. After we killed off the buffalo we found replacements for its meat and hide. Must we kill off the great whales before we use the replacements for its products? Soap, margarine, beauty cream, machine oil and pet food are hardly a justifiable reason to destroy the world's mightiest creature. Substitutes can be used for all of these products—even the sperm oil so prized in industry.
The third obvious reason is on behalf of the whales themselves. Of what value is a whale besides its meat? I've thrilled to whales off the coasts of Alaska. The sudden appearance of a great black back, the whoosh of its blow, the echoing slap of a mighty tail typify the mystery of the sea. Victor Scheffer, author of The Year of the Whale, perhaps describes it best: "Moving through a dim, dark, cool, watery world of its own, the whale is timeless and ancient; part of our common heritage and yet remote, awful, prowling the ocean floor a half-mile down, under the guidance of powers and senses we are only beginning to grasp."
Herman Melville said over a century ago, "Whether owing to the almost omniscient look-outs at the mast-heads of the whale-ships, now penetrating through Behring's straits, and into the remotest secret drawers and lockers of the world; and the thousand harpoons and lances darted along all continental coasts; the moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters."
Melville would be surprised to learn that whaling reached its height in the last decade. The lookouts have been replaced with radar and helicopters, the longboats with 20-knot whale catchers. A factory ship can dispose of an 80-ton carcass in 30 minutes. No animal can endure such a massive technological onslaught.
Scheffer says, "If you believe in people, you will believe in whales. If you believe that human life has meaning or purpose or direction or destiny, you will know in your heart that our life is bound all around and together and forever with the lives of the animals who were present at our creation. If we survive, we will care for the whales and the other wild creatures, and if we perish through our own cleverness, the end of the wild things will have been an early warning of our folly."
I have great hopes that a rational policy will prevail in regard to the whales. I took this step to help speed up acceptance of such a policy.