One of the most controversial practices Iceland engages in on the international stage is whale hunting. The industry has seemed virtually unstoppable, even in the face of international petitions and condemnation from the White House itself. However, hacktivist group Anonymous have gotten involved in fighting whaling, as a part of a campaign called #OpWhales.
By Anonymous’ nature, there is no central committee who decides where everyone is to focus their energy. Rather, #OpWhales is the brainchild of Amber Stone. Amber reluctantly agreed to speak with Grapevine about the campaign, why it matters, and where #OpWhales is headed.
How did the idea behind #OpWhales form? Tell me a bit about how the discussion was sparked, and how you all arrived at the conclusion to act.
This was a personal passion of mine. While gathering research for other whale-related projects I became more aware of Icelandic whaling, especially the Fin Whale hunt. I always wanted to do something, to start some form of campaign against it. But with time being short in my daily life, and the ongoing #OpKillingBay and #OpSeaWorld campaigns, I couldn’t commit to giving the time needed to serve the project any justice. Both of the other ops are now well-established, however, so in November I felt the time was right to move forward with an op focused on Iceland’s whaling. I had a chat with some key team members who agreed with me; it was time to implement #OpWhales.
When it comes to campaign operations, we’re mostly familiar with the DDoS actions against Icelandic government websites. But what else has #OpWhales entailed?
First and foremost – Anonymous ops, including #OpWhales, are based on factual information, using the power of social media to its full advantage to bring the subject into the public’s awareness. Powerful custom made images, tweetstorms and relevant articles all have a part to play in a successful op.
Was it particularly difficult to convince other people to get involved in the campaign?
To be honest I didn’t expect that #OpWhales would become more than a sideline campaign to the massive already-implemented ops, #OpKillingBay and #OpSeaWorld. #OpSeaWorld has run for a year and is really huge. #OpKillingBay is in its third year and is also very well known. I was surprised, and shocked, to see so many people getting on board so quickly. The #OpWhales video has had more than 200K views. The tweetstorm had 18K tweets in the first hour alone. I feel that #OpWhales has actually touched the hearts of many.
Given that whaling is a private enterprise, some of our readers were confused why government websites were targeted. Can you explain a little about why government websites got involved?
That’s easy to explain. Iceland’s ministers could have stopped the whaling at any time, yet they agreed and allocated the quotas in December, 2013 – these being 154 Fin Whales per year from 2014 to 2018. This is (was) simply unacceptable for a class A endangered animal.
Has any member of the Icelandic government attempted to contact you or someone else in #OpWhales? If so, how did that turn out?
Not really. However, there were some who did aim tweets at #OpWhales supporters (no need to mention names), asking them to stop ‘spamming’ tweets to their accounts on Twitter.
What’s your response to the news that [Hvalur hf. CEO] Kristján Loftsson will not hunt fin whales this year?
I can honestly tell you that I was stunned, shocked and overwhelmed. I myself was in tears of joy, and I know I can say the same for the team who were also very emotional. I never thought I’d say this but, Thank you very much, Mr. Loftsson; we all hope you will consider ending the hunt for good.
Recent news has emerged that the minke whale industry is in decline. What are your thoughts on this? Will or has #OpWhales also set their sites against minke whale, or solely endangered whales? If all whales, why?
The fact that any kind of whaling exists is the reason #Opwhales exists. At the start of the campaign, #Opwhales was primarily focused on ending the Fin-whale hunt, although all species are obviously included in the campaign. Whaling as an industry deserves to be consigned to history. Whales are sentient, intelligent beings who show us empathy and display self-awareness as we do. We are learning more about these ocean giants every year. With more profit being made from the whale-watching industry, and whaling in such obvious decline, I would hope Iceland can take steps to protect all whales and help grow the blossoming tourism industry.
Are there any other campaigns you’re involved in right now? What’s next for #OpWhales?
As I’ve said, both #OpSeaWorld and #OpKillingBay are ongoing. I’m in it for the long haul. Campaigns don’t work overnight and perseverance is everything.
#OpWhales isn’t going away. Of course we want Iceland to stop ALL whaling and would love nothing better than for Iceland to become a credited protection zone for whales. This, in my opinion, would make headline news worldwide. It would also have an impact on whaling as a whole, leaving only Japan and Norway in the spotlight, both of which are targets for Anonymous ops.
In conclusion, I’d just like to add a Thank You to Iceland and your people. We are very much pro-Iceland, but as much anti-whaling. You are blessed to have so many species of whales on your doorstep.