International Marine Mammal Project

In Loving Memory of Gretchen Wyler

Earth Island News

photo of an elegantly dressed woman speaking in publicLong Photography

“Animals should have the right to run if they have legs … swim if they have fins … and fly if they have wings,” was how Gretchen Wyler signed off the Genesis Awards, which she founded and hosted for 20 years. Wyler was a star on Broadway before turning her passion for animals into a 40-year career of advocacy. She passed away at age 75 on May 27 after battling breast cancer for several years.

Often described as a ‘force of nature,’ Wyler was a pioneer of animal advocacy; she became the first woman on the ASPCA’s board of directors in 1970 and also served as vice chairwoman of the board of the Fund for Animals from 1971 to 1991. Wyler enlisted the help of her celebrity friends in the cause of animal and environmental advocacy and began the Genesis Awards in 1986. Every year, the Genesis Awards pays tribute to the major news and entertainment media for their work in raising public understanding of animal issues. Wyler was very fond of Earth Island Institute, in particular the work of our International Marine Mammal Project. Gretchen loved all animals including marine mammals and she helped IMMP to highlight their plight by honoring the film Free Willy with a Best Film Genesis Award in 1994. Mark Berman and IMMP Director Dave Phillips were feted at the Hollywood gala and honored for their tireless and successful campaign to rescue Keiko, the whale featured in the film.

In 2006, IMMP’s work was once again recognized when ABC’s “Primetime” feature on dolphins was honored with a Genesis Award. Wyler publicly acknowledged IMMP’s work to free Solomon Island dolphins captured for the entertainment industry and to end the barbaric dolphin slaughter in the drive fisheries of Taiji, Japan.

Earth Island Institute is grateful for having Gretchen Wyler as a colleague in our shared efforts to protect animals and our environment. We extend our condolences to her family and her colleagues at the Genesis Awards and the Humane Society of the United States.

For more on Wyler’s life and legacy, visit

— Kevin Connelly

Court Rejects Bid to Weaken the “Dolphin Safe” Label

On April 27, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to allow the weakening of the “Dolphin Safe” tuna label and condemned the failure of the Bush administration and federal agencies to base decisions on scientific evidence.

The three-judge panel handed down a unanimous judgment against the Bush administration in ruling that the Commerce Department, in an effort to weaken the standards for determining if tuna is “Dolphin Safe,” based its findings on political issues, not scientific ones.

The Bush administration has been trying to weaken the Dolphin Safe standards in the Marine Mammal Protection Act for six years, in an effort to allow tuna from Mexico to be imported to the US with a phony “Dolphin Safe” label.

“This is a total victory for dolphin protection and for a “Dolphin Safe” tuna label that can be trusted,” notes David Phillips, director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.

“Congress required the Bush administration to base their decision about the standards of the ‘Dolphin Safe’ tuna label on science,” Phillips says. “But the pressure from the State Department and the Mexican government to gut dolphin protections were enormous. The Ninth Circuit recognized this in their strong decision against the Bush administration – a decision that benefits dolphins, American consumers, and the members of the US tuna industry that follow the rules and protects dolphins.”

In its decision, the Court noted: “We agree with the district court’s conclusion that this record demonstrates the Secretary was improperly influenced by political concerns.”

“The Bush administration cannot weaken the ‘Dolphin Safe’ tuna label again without going through Congress,” Phillips adds. Senator Barbara Boxer, author of the original “Dolphin Safe” label legislation, now occupies a leadership position in the US Senate.

Earth Island has been litigating the issue of protecting dolphins from the tuna fleets for more than 18 years. In his ruling, District Court Judge Thelton Henderson wrote: “This court has never, in its 24 years, reviewed a record of an agency action that contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling. This portrait is chronicled in documents which show that both Mexico and the United States Department of State ... engaged in a persistent effort to influence both the process and the ultimate finding, and that the high ranking officials [sic] in the Department of Commerce were willing to heed these influences notwithstanding the scientific evidence to the contrary.”

Organizations suing the Bush administration on behalf of the dolphins include Earth Island Institute, biologist Samuel LaBudde, The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Defenders of Wildlife, International Wildlife Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, Animal Fund, and Oceanic Society.

Watershed for Whales

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, held May 30 to June 2, is likely to be a watershed meeting where countries opposed to commercial whaling solidified their majority in support of whales.

In previous years, the Japanese delegation and its coalition of client nations almost achieved a majority in the IWC. The conservative, pro-whaling Japan Fisheries Agency provides financial aid for many countries, including many small Caribbean and Pacific island countries. In return, the countries are expected to support Japan at the IWC in favor of whaling. At the 2006 IWC meeting in St. Kitts in the Caribbean, Japan’s delegation discovered three days into the meeting that they had a majority, and passed a resolution, by one vote, called “The St. Kitts Declaration,” which called for a return to commercial whaling and accuses environmental groups of being interested in whales only as a fund-raising scam.

But conservation-minded nations, led by Australia, New ealand, and the United Kingdom, conducted diplomatic outreach over the past year to gain the support of several new countries joining the IWC. In addition, several countries that had let their memberships lapse paid their past dues and rejoined the Commission in Anchorage. The US delegation, once outspoken in its opposition to commercial whaling, has become problematic under the Bush administration. While still voting with the conservation bloc in IWC meetings, the US is no longer as active in opposition to whaling as in the past.

Due to the rebound of conservation-minded nations, the difference between this 2007 IWC meeting and several previous meetings was striking. Once again, a majority of nations passed resolutions through the IWC condemning Japan’s illegal “scientific” research whaling in Antarctica and the North Pacific, where Japanese whalers are now killing more than one thousand whales a year. The meat by-products of this so-called research is being sold in Japanese markets or foisted on school lunch programs. The Japan Fisheries Agency’s whaling mostly targets the small minke whale, but they are now proposing to expand the hunt to the endangered southern humpback and fin whales.

Furthermore, the IWC majority voted to oppose any weakening of the current ban on international trade in whale meat, a ban maintained by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Shortly after the IWC meeting, a strong majority of nations voted to oppose Japan’s proposal to allow trade in whale meat at the CITES meeting in The Hague.

Despite the strong conservation message coming from the majority at the IWC, it is unclear whether it will have much effect on continued whaling by Japan, Norway, and Iceland. Environmentalists have worked to generate strong whaling opposition in Iceland, particularly among the Icelandic tourism industry and other businesses concerned with the impact of whaling on Iceland’s international reputation. In Japan, Earth Island and other groups have been able to make some headway in having businesses drop the sale of whale and dolphin meat in stores, but much remains to be done.

IMMP edits and publishes the daily newsletter ECO during the IWC meetings every year. To read the daily articles on whale-related issues, go to

photo of a butcher, lots of red meat and japanese script in the case before himJoshuaRoberts / ReutersWhale and dolphin meat are popular supermarket items in Japan.
Japan Fisheries Agency’s Dolphin Slaughter Online

Japan’s violent and bloody annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins can be seen online at

The Web site is the effort of a coalition comprising Earth Island’s IMMP, Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals, and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan. Our efforts to end the slaughter have resulted in several important steps, such as revealing that the dolphin slaughter in Japan is subsidized by the capture and sale of live dolphins for aquariums and “swim-with-dolphins” tourist programs. Our efforts have also resulted in one major Japanese supermarket chain, the Okuwa Supermarkets, dropping the sale of dolphin meat from its stores due to the meat’s contamination by mercury and other lethal poisons.

New footage from last fall’s dolphin hunt, filmed by dolphin activist Richard O’Barry is posted at

IMMP, along with the coalition, aims to stop the cruel dolphin slaughter in Japan once and for all.

— Mark J. Palmer

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