The International Whaling Commission's annual conference last month ended with the 20-year ban on commercial whaling still in effect. But Japan and other pro-whaling nations secured a victory, passing a resolution saying the moratorium was no longer necessary, and calling for its end. Anti-whaling activists hope the Bush Administration will step up its efforts to persuade Japan and others to desist from any whale hunts. In the meantime, activists have been working hard to raise international awareness of the issue by writing letters and contacting their government officials. One organization -- the International Fund for Animal Welfare - turned to the whales themselves - and the Internet -- for help.
The great whales have fascinated humans for thousands of years. "Whales are unique creatures. It's the largest animal on earth," says Greg Whetstone, U.S. director of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "They have a magnificent way of communicating. The song of the humpback whale can be carried thousands of miles at sea."
IFAW hopes the song will carry the beauty of the whales' song even further over the Internet. The group is sponsoring a unique music competition. Music lovers can download whale sounds from IFAW's website and create a re-mix of their own, using those sounds. Contestants can submit their song online and the best entry will win a video iPod.
Whetstone says the aim of the contest is "to focus attention on one, the beauty of the whale song, and then the reality that the whales are increasingly threatened by the commercial whaling."
Shariff Ownes, 13, who lives in Massachusetts, says he saw a pop-up on the Internet promoting the competition. "It said that you can win an iPod. So I just clicked on it out of curiosity. I started to play around with it, then I sent it in."
He says he realized that the whales' sounds were more interesting then he ever thought. "I care about the whales in the world and stuff," Ownes says. "I wanted to see what it was like."
Even for those who've never created a re-mix - like this reporter - playing with the sounds of a whale and mixing them with music was entertaining and interesting.
A panel of celebrity judges -- including musician Johanna Fateman -- will choose the winner. Johanna created her own remix and says the experience helped her realize that music is a powerful tool in supporting a worthwhile cause. "I think it's a good idea. It's a novel idea in terms of getting people involved and informed about the issues in a way that engages them creatively," Fateman says. "I think that's always a challenge in any kind of activist work, to get people to do something that they love and that's personally fulfilling and inspiring to them. It has to be something that keeps people involved and engaged."
Because of the great response to the whales remix competition, IFAW decided to extend it to the end of August. The contest will coincide with other events IFAW is sponsoring this summer to bring worldwide attention to the whales.