Earth Trust was established in Hawaii in 1976 by Don White, a founding member of Greenpeace and its former international campaign director. The organization claims to pay no full-time salaries and to be staffed by a network of volunteers. However, according to its website, it pays programme managers and other staff ‘whenever there is a defined mission’. Its overall mission is, in its words, to make the earth a better place for ‘wildlife and mankind by tackling “impossible” environmental issues that others have given up on’.
Earth Trust believes that it is engaged in a war with the commercial wildlife industry, which it accuses of wanting to ‘kill the very last member of many species’. It justifies that claim by arguing ‘there’s big money, hundreds of millions of dollars, in play to pay for their execution’.
In pursuit of its beliefs, Earth Trust opposes the commercial exploitation of every wild species on the planet. The exception being, it would seem, when it makes money from the multi-billion-dollar tuna industry. Because Earth Trust International claims that it devised the market-led Flipper Seal of Approval, which signals to consumers that cans of tuna displaying the label are ‘dolphin friendly’, so long as companies first pay the license fee to join the scheme. (Note: this scheme does not provide or require any proof about mortalities or injuries of dolphins caused in the capture of the tuna.)
One of Earth Trust’s major initiatives was to create the Species Survival Network (SSN), which it co-founded in 1992 to enhance the strict enforcement of CITES’ listings. This coalition of around 80 animal activist NGOs boasts that its SSN Fish Working Group lobbied successfully for the listing of the great white shark, whale shark, basking shark, Napoleon wrasse and seahorses in CITES’ appendices.
Another of Earth Trust’s initiatives is Save The Whales International (STWI), which it founded and still manages. This campaign is hostile to all forms of commercial whaling. However, STWI has invested most of its energies in challenging Japan’s research-led whaling activities.
According to its website it has a small board of directors and a large number of advisors.