Meet Me in Morocco

Meet Me in Morocco

by Joey Racano
(special to Harlots’ Sauce Radio)

‘Ye shall smell land, though none such is nigh
and ‘neath the laughter of gulls,
a white whale shall surface
spouting crimson into a wasted sea
And with his great flukes shall ye be made
to swim among the splinters’

-J. Racano

Just in time for summer, representatives from 88 nations gathered in Agadir, Morocco, for the 62nd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission on June 21st. The high ratings of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” and national newspaper headlines showing a giant Louisiana oil platform burning, sinking and spilling—on Earth Day—are among the telltale signs suggesting that this was the most contentious IWC meeting ever.

Since 1986, when Ronald Reagan strong-armed an international whaling moratorium through, commercial whaling has been outlawed worldwide, allowing dwindling whale populations to slowly stabilize. But throughout, scofflaw nations like Norway and Iceland have ignored the ban, and Japan has exploited a “research” loophole to continue killing whales. Nothing was ever learned through such research, but it did spawn the hit show “Whale Wars” on Animal Planet, documenting the anti-whaling travels of Paul Watson and his “Sea Shepherd” crew. Tellingly, it has become their most successful program.

Another thing the whaling has spawned is an unprecedented global movement to put a harpoon in whaling—any whaling—once and for all. Many Facebook groups now rapid-fire anti-whaling petitions back and forth, then on to the desks of legislators. Numerous are the anti-whaling advertisements purchased by conservation groups, such as a full page ad in the New York Times by International Fund for Animal Welfare (, urging President Obama to honor a 2008 campaign pledge in which he labeled whaling, “unacceptable.” And as the June meeting of the IWC draws nearer, global voices are rising in a cacophony of concern, not only for the whales, but for oceans under assault from every conceivable direction.

While activists clamor for the National Marine Fisheries Service to release results of a study they say shows whales to be declining in number, NMFS apparently wants to wait until after the IWC meeting to do so. Another study shows the ocean’s chemistry to be changing rapidly, while still other studies show that Humpback Whales have switched to eating krill, a tiny sea-going shrimp, because they can no longer find enough fish to eat. The stomach of an emaciated Gray Whale that beached itself and died recently in West Seattle was found to contain rags, junk and some 20 plastic bags—everything but food. While proponents of a controversial plan to resume whaling claim it would reduce the number of whales actually being killed currently, critics say legalizing whaling for the benefit of outlaw whaling nations is like making bank robbery legal for the benefit of bank robbers. They also point to the plan’s “10 year, no opportunity for review” component.

One of the most outspoken critics of the plan to resume legalized commercial whaling is Sara Wan, head of the Wan Conservancy ( and the California Gray Whale Coalition ( and a member of the powerful California Coastal Commission. I had an opportunity to ask Sara a few questions for Harlot Sauce Radio:

HS: Why do you think President Obama is having difficulty keeping his 2008 pledge to keep the moratorium against whaling in place? Are there “political realities?”

Sara Wan: It is hard to say and there may be several factors including the pressure from Japan and a desire to work with them for financial reasons.

HS: If the moratorium is lifted for the benefit of three nations, what happens if other countries decide they too want to begin whaling? Could the IWC legally stop them?

Sara Wan: That is one of the problems. If the ban is lifted it cannot simply be applied to them, although they seem to be the only ones interested in doing whaling because it is not economically viable. The Japanese government has to subsidize the whaling.

HS: What is the most effective way for the average citizen to take action if they don’t want the moratorium lifted?

Sara Wan: There are numerous sites where they can sign a petition to send to the White House, including the Western Alliance for Nature, IFAW, Greenpeace, etc. They can call the White House at 202-456-1111 and they can attend a May 23rd demonstration against this.

HS: Do you envision a day when there may be a moratorium not only on hunting, but on whale captivity as well?

Sara Wan: I would hope so but I don’t see that in the works. There is too much money involved in keeping whales in captivity.

President Obama and the United States are leading the IWC movement to resume legalized whaling, calling it a ‘Peace Plan’. However, the Japanese say it doesn’t let them kill enough whales, the global environmental movement is raising its considerable voice, and the party doesn’t start until June. Perhaps they should call it a ‘War Plan’ instead.

Joey Racano is a native New Yorker who grew up with one tree in his neighborhood. He moved to California to pursue a career in music, writing, and art. His book, An Activist’s Almanac, features a forward by Paul Watson. Visit his website at: or his infamous blog at:

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