Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Are there whales in the Gobi desert?
There must be whales somewhere in landlocked Mongolia. Maybe some "Goby Dick" is at this very moment lurking in the depths of Lake Baikal.
Why else would Mongolia have joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to send delegates all the way to the Caribbean to cast a vote for the resumption of whaling?
Some people claim they have heard whale sounds in Mongolia. Closer investigation has revealed it was the unique and peculiar type of throat singing called Khoomiy. It sounds a little like oceanic humpback and is "sung" by shepherds in the desert but none of the sounds have led to any actual whale sightings - just sheep, horses, and shepherds. It may, however, be the link that will allow humans to communicate with whales. I think the Japanese are presently conducting research into this link with Mongolian scientists. It appears that a thousand whales need to be killed to research whale voice boxes. No word yet on how many Mongolian throat-humming shepherds will be lethally researched in the comparative study.
Khoomiy musical artists called Khoomchi insist there is no relationship between their music and the whales. "I don't believe that there is a connection," said famed Khoomchi Dashnym Enhtuya. "But our Japanese friends have said they will be researching this for us in Antarctica and promised to buy our CD's."
Mongolians did try to go to sea before - twice in fact - both times with disastrous consequences when they tried to invade Japan under Kublai Khan. They failed because of the Kamikaze or divine winds. That's what the samurai called typhoons back then. The Mongolians refer to it as the time when that "crazy Kublai Khan guy tried to go to sea without a barometer."
After the storm, there was a dead calm and that was the only time the Mongols ever got intimately close to whales. They floated around with them for days, except the ones in full armor life jackets who went quickly to the bottom to feed the crabs.
Mongolia is not a wealthy nation so there must be some economic motivation to send delegates halfway around the world to support the resumption of commercial whaling.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been unsuccessful in finding a Mongolian whaler to interview and there does not appear to be an argument for traditional or cultural whaling. Further inquiries revealed that 99.5% of all Mongolians have never seen a whale.
Interviews with Mongolian gourmets have revealed some fairly exotic recipes for horse's milk, pony brains, and sheep's eyeballs, but there was not a single Mongolia to be found who expressed a desire for a whale burger.
Japan denies that it has any influence over Mongolia's attendance at the IWC meetings. Mongolia is an independent nation says Mongolian IWC Commissioner Mr. Tsend Damdin. "We are not influenced by other nations. Our vote reflects the concerns of our people who have expressed support for ending the global ban on whaling. Any suggestion that Japan is influencing us is a lie"
The Mongolian delegation's travel expenses were covered by the Japanese pro-wildlife trade group the Japan Bekko Association. That is not a suggestion, but a fact.
When not in charge of regulating Mongolia's whaling interests, Mr. Damdin serves on the Mongolian Olympic Committee. His area of expertise is in judo and wrestling, which according to Mongolian tradition, seems to make him an expert on whaling. This expertise was well reflected in Mongolia's vote to accuse the whales of destroying the world's fisheries.
Mongolians have never had a national referendum on whaling nor has it ever appeared on a ballot. Whaling is not a hot issue on Mongolian talk shows and is not your average topic of conversation amongst the horse manure shoveling crowd in the mornings.
But Mr. Tsend Damdin is prepared to change that. "I think Mongolia has a future in whaling. We don't actually have to kill whales but if we vote to kill whales, Japan will give my Judo team a large donation. I think that the interests of Mongolian sports fans would be positively served with a strong judo team financed with the profits of Japanese whaling."
At a special dinner hosted by the Japanese delegation in St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Damdin ate his first whale steak. "It was chewy, not as bad as dog, and a little tastier than horse, but Mongolian crystallized camel urine gave it the pinch of salt that was needed to make it go down with the local rum."
Mongolia joined the IWC in 2002 because whaling is a matter of grave national importance to the Mongolian people who are worried that the whales are eating all of the world's fish.
At this year's IWC meeting Mongolia voted with Japan on every resolution earning Mr. Damdin a pat on the head by Joji Morishita. "That's my boy," said the Japanese whaling commissioner. "Ain't he cute?"