It's been a busy whaling season by the Japanese despite the fact that many believe their thinly veiled excuse as scientific research couldn't wear much thinner. And the past week has been full of headlines regarding the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and their continued clashes with the Japanese whaling fleet.
The latest is that Paul Bethune, a New Zealand citizen, boarded a Japanese whaling vessel in order to hand them a hefty bill for the Ady Gil that was sunk last month and make a citizen's arrest of the captain of the boat.
So the sea saga continues...
This incident is the latest in an escalating series of skirmishes on the high seas between anti-whaling activists of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, of which Bethune is a member, and the Japanese whaling industry. The whaling wars have also intensified a diplomatic tussle between Japan and Australian and New Zealand, with the Kiwis demanding a halt to the hunting and the Australian government saying it hasn’t ruled out the prospect of taking legal action against the whalers after gathering evidence that it’s presenting to the International Whaling Commission [BusinessWeek].
The International Whaling Commission placed a global moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 but whales can still be killed for research purposes–a technical loophole that allows Japanese whalers to kill an estimated 1000 whales each year. The boats hunt hundreds of mostly minke whales, which are not an endangered species. Whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan, which critics say is the real reason for the hunts [Associated Press]. DISCOVER has documented complaints by American scientists that killing whales isn’t necessary for the research Japanese scientists are conducting. The International Whaling Commission continues to try to figure out how to amend its rules to contain Japan’s whaling efforts, thus far without success.
Japan now has six whaling ships in Antarctic waters for “scientific purposes.” The Sea Shepherd sends vessels to confront the fleet each year, trying to block the whalers from firing harpoons and dangling ropes in the water to try to snarl the Japanese ships’ propellers. The whalers have responded by firing water cannons and sonar devices meant to disorient the activists [Associated Press].
And the attacks on both sides are indeed escalating, I think the tension stems from the fact that neither are going to back down, both feeling perfectly within their rights. The Japanese are killing whales within a very fine line of international law and the Sea Shepherd Society is doing its best to make their lives miserable and mission impossible. And it's working.
I think we can guarantee now that the Japanese whaling fleet will fail to get their kill quota by 30% to 55% based on past observations of Sea Shepherd disruptions, said Captain Watson, They will not be seeing any profits for this season.
Mr. Masayuki Komatsu, the former Japanese whaling commissioner who once referred to Minke whales as the cockroaches of the sea, has warned Japan not to retreat from whaling in Antarctica because it would be handing a decisive victory for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Our minister said that they are going to retreat from Antarctica, Sea Shepherd must be happier,” Komatsu said.
If the only reason that Japan wishes to continue whaling is because they refuse to be seen backing down from Sea Shepherd than that is truly pathetic and extremely petty on the part of the Japanese government, said Captain Watson, What Komatsu is really saying is that we are humiliating Japan by effectively disrupting their illegal poaching activities. If its now all about saving face now that theyve already lost, then they should retreat while they still have half a face left.
And because of the activism of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, I highly doubt that this issue would get half the publicity it does now or the attention of Countries like Australia, which is threatening again to take legal action against Japan if they don't stop whaling immediately.
Kevin Rudd said yesterday that if Japan did not agree to reduce its Antarctic catch to zero, Australia would go to the International Court of Justice by November, before the next whaling season.
''We have put ourselves onto a timeline, we're working it through with the Japanese, but if they don't come at this agreement to reduce to zero, we will initiate that action,'' Mr Rudd told Channel Seven.
The ultimatum, the toughest Mr Rudd has made to the Japanese on the issue, comes amid International Whaling Commission talks said to fall far short of what the government wants.
The meeting with Mr Okada in Sydney today and with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, tomorrow will be the last chance for top-level exchanges before a report on the commission talks is released next week.
The report contains what anti-whaling groups describe as ''the package from hell''. It proposes to lock in a Japanese Antarctic whaling quota for 10 years, according to Brazilian environmentalist Jose Truda Palazzo.
This must end, whaling by the Japanese is a farce and it is not justified as scientific research or as a means to feed the Japanese people. There is just no logical reason to keep whaling except for the Japanese to defy the world merely for defiance sake.
On Valentines Day, The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was working as hard as ever...
The crews of the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker celebrated Valentine's Day by painting the Research sign on the side of the Nisshan Maru with red paint. The paint represented the blood of the whales, exposing the bogus nature of so-called research by the Japanese whaling vessels.
The word "research" is in English and not Japanese, because the Japanese fully understand that the whaling is a commercial operation. It is only the West that the Japanese whalers are trying to fool.
The Japanese whalers have not killed a whale for ten days now because of Sea Shepherd’s intervention.
The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research has accused Sea Shepherd of harassing the fleet each day. Of course Sea Shepherd is harassing the fleet. We did not come down here to hang banners.
Sea Shepherd ships have a single objection - to cut kill quotas inflicted by the illegal poaching operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
For those who accuse Sea Shepherd of being criminals, Captain Paul Watson has only this to say: "If we are criminals, either arrest us or shut the hell up. I'm getting pretty fed up with whiners who can't back up their ridiculous accusations with the law. Cite a law that we have broken, cite a violation. The truth is that there have been no violations and we have not been charged with a single criminal act or maritime violation in six years of opposing these poachers."
Sea Shepherd, on the other hand, can cite laws, such as: the regulations of the International Whaling Commission, the Antarctic Treaty, the Law of the Sea, and an Australian Federal Court order prohibiting Japanese whaling in the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.
Japanese whalers are barred from entering Australian and New Zealand waters. Sea Shepherd ships are not barred. Japanese whalers are barred from Indonesian waters. Sea Shepherd ships are not. If a Japanese whaling ship enters an Australian or New Zealand port it will be arrested. Sea Shepherd ships are not arrested.
So who indeed are the criminals? The poachers illegally killing endangered and protected whales inside the boundaries of an established international Whale Sanctuary, in violation of a global moratorium on whaling, and in contempt of an Australian Federal Court order, OR the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is simply trying to stop these illegal activities, and doing so in a responsible manner without causing injuries or breaking the law?
Tomorrow marks the 70th day since the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin departed Fremantle to begin Operation Waltzing Matilda.
"This is a long protracted campaign involving three vessels coming from three different countries under different flags and with volunteers from 18 nations. We are navigating the most remote and hostile waters in the world and we are opposing an increasingly aggressive opposition. We have lost one ship and had another damaged. But, we are cutting their kill quotas and costing them their profits and thus Operation Waltzing Matilda has been a success," said Captain Watson. "We will not retreat and we will never surrender the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the poachers from Japan."
Thanks to them, less whales died on Valentine's day and during this whole whaling season. I don't pretend to be objective. Their methods are working.