Vladimir Putin has resisted pressure from Ukrainian fighters, international sanctions, and European antitrust regulators, but will the Russian president prove to be as headstrong against the entreaties of Pamela Anderson?
The Canadian-American actress and model has written a letter to Putin, requesting that Russia prevent the passage of the cargo vessel Winter Bay through the Northeast Passage. The Winter Bay is reportedly carrying more than 1,700 tons of fin whale meat, harvested off the shore of Iceland and bound for sale at markets in Japan—Iceland and Japan being two of only three countries worldwide where whaling is still legal.
According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Winter Bay is in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), of which the Russian Federation is a signatory. CITES prohibited the Icelandic shipment from being carried through the Suez or Panama canals, thus leaving the Winter Bay only one viable route: the Bering Strait, which separates the Russian region of Kamchatka from the US state of Alaska at the point where the Arctic meets the Pacific ocean. This cuts straight through Russian territorial waters, meaning Putin has the power to refuse the Winter Bay passage and send it back to Iceland.
Anderson, an active and well-known animal-rights advocate, has apparently asked the Russian leader to do exactly that. A portion of the translated letter, provided by Sea Shepherd, reads:
President Putin, you can stop this illegal transit by forbidding this vessel from carrying a cargo of endangered fin whale meat through Russian waters to Japan. I would like to respectfully ask you to consider investigating this shipment and to do what you can to prevent it from transiting to Japan an illegal cargo. Your decision could put an end to the needless slaughter of endangered whales by Iceland. Thank you Mr. President for your consideration of my request.
In the letter (full text below), Anderson proves to be a shrewd geopolitical operator, appealing to Putin’s well-documented love for all things wild. During one of Putin’s stints as Russia’s prime minister (sandwiched between presidential terms), the customs union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan followed Europe’s lead on a controversial ban on seal products.
The previous year, he had launched the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg with the World Bank’s then-president Robert Zoellick. The campaign was intended to address the precipitous decline in tiger populations worldwide, and to help double the population by 2022. Today, as many as 540 Siberian tigers reside in Russia’s Far Eastern forests, an 8% increase from 2005, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. This is thanks largely in part to Russia’s strict anti-poaching laws.
No word yet as to whether Anderson’s plea have effect, or even if it has reached Putin’s ear. With the Greek economy crumbling on Russia’s southern doorstep, and talks on Iran’s nuclear program getting extended in Vienna, stopping the shipment of whale meat isn’t likely to be a high priority at the moment. But more famous than his love for fauna is the Russian leader’s unpredictability. Bering Sea-bound whalers, beware.
July 5, 2015
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,
I believe that we both share a mutual love for animals and a deep respect for nature and for this reason I would like to make a personal request to you, on behalf of endangered fin whales. At this moment there is a ship in Tromsø, Norway, called the Winter Bay. It is carrying a cargo of 1,700 tons of fin whale meat. These whales were killed illegally in violation of the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling. It is also illegal to kill fin whales and to engage in the trade of endangered species. The Winter Bay was unable to transit the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal or to transit via Europe or Africa for fear of being stopped by the appropriate authorities. The Winter Bay intends to transit through Russian waters with assistance of Russian icebreakers to deliver this illegal cargo to Japan. President Putin, you can stop this illegal transit by forbidding this vessel from carrying a cargo of endangered fin whale meat through Russian waters to Japan. I would like to respectfully ask you to consider investigating this shipment and to do what you can to prevent it from transiting to Japan an illegal cargo. Your decision could put an end to the needless slaughter of endangered whales by Iceland. Thank you Mr. President for your consideration of my request.