Robbins Barstow: Warrior for Whales

On November 7, 2010, two weeks after his 91st birthday, long-time AWI colleague and whale advocate Robbins Wolcott Barstow, Jr. died at his home in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Robbins was Director Emeritus of Cetacean Society International (CSI) and spent decades working to save whales. In 1974, he co-founded the Connecticut Cetacean Society (now CSI) and successfully spearheaded an effort to make the sperm whale Connecticut’s state mammal. In 1983, he organized the seminal and widely attended Whales Alive conference in Boston. Robbins attended meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for nearly 20 years, from 1976 to 1994, promoting an end to whaling for commercial gain. He was instrumental in the creation of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary at the 46th IWC meeting held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, his last such meeting. Robbins was still fighting the whaling wars last spring when he made the following call to arms to US NGOs:

Friends, this is it—the final battle! If we lose this one, and the IWC authorizes any kind of resumption of commercial whaling, we have lost the war. It will be generations before there is any chance to stop all commercial whaling again. Our thirty-year war to end whale killing for profit will be ended in defeat.

He then went on to prescribe a series of actions, including advertisements in newspapers and a rally in front of the White House. We’re happy to relate that both these actions—and others—were taken, and that the battle, though not yet the war, was won.

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