ANTI-WHALERS GROUP SEA SHEPHERD DISCONTINUING PREVENTATIVE SEA PATROLS AS JAPANESE WHALERS TOO SOPHISTICATED
You may not remember them, but it’s likely you’ve heard of the last 12 years of their sea-patrols in the news or from coverage in the docu-style TV series Whale Wars. The group is called Sea Shepherd and has been a diligent and controversial harasser of Japanese whalers since its inception. According to Sea Shepherd (and many, many others) Japanese whalers have been killing whales illegally in the Southern Ocean. But they are shutting down their sea-based patrols as they can’t compete any longer with the “military grade technology” that is suddenly available to whaling vessels.
THOUSANDS SAVED OVER THE LAST DECADE, BUT SAVING THE WHALES IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN MAY BE OVER
In existence sine 1977, the group’s mission is to “end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.” They’ve used what they call “direct-action tactics” which involves investigation, documentation and even the confronting of what they perceive to be illegal activities on the ocean. They say they have saved thousands of whales over the last 12 years in the Southern Ocean, but their methods may now be outdated and useless. Japanese whalers have gotten much more sophisticated in their operations and Sea Shepherd literally can no longer keep up to continue to try to save whales.
Sea Shepherd’s founder Paul Watson put out this statement:
“Unfortunately, in an effort to prevent Sea Shepherd interventions, [the Japanese whalers] doubled their killing grounds which means that they have more time and more area to kill their lowered quota,” said Watson. “What we discovered is that Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us….We cannot compete with their military grade technology.”
JAPAN’S WHALING FOR “SCIENTIFIC” PURPOSES, EVERYONE KNOWS IT’S A RUSE
In 1982, the International Whaling Commission introduced a ban on commercial whaling, but scientific research was exempted. Sea Shepherd, with good reason, claims that Japan is using this exemption to justify its annual whale hunt. And indeed, a significant portion of the dead minke whales are sold, and the science gleaned from these expeditions is of no consequence. In 2014, an International Court of Justice ruling placed a temporary halt to Japan’s whaling activities, saying its Antarctic whaling project is not a scientific endeavor. The prohibition lasted for one year, and Japan returned to its activities in the Southern Ocean in 2016 and 2017.
ANTI-TERROR LAWS PREVENTING SEA SHEPHERD FROM OPERATIONS, JAPANESE WHALERS HAVE SUPER POWER BACKING
Sea Shepherd claims that Japan’s whaling fleet has the “powerful backing of a major economic superpower,” and that it’s facing “hostile” governments in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Both Australia and New Zealand have denied Sea Shepherd its charitable status, making it difficult for the conservation group to raise funds. The group also claims that Australia is reneging on its promise to monitor Japanese whaling. New anti-terrorism laws, claims Watson, are “specifically designed to condemn Sea Shepherd tactics.”
In response, Japan has tried to use the courts to shut-down the anti-whaling campaign, claiming that the activists have rammed its ships, snared propellers with ropes, and harassed the whaling crews with paint and stink bombs. Two years back, Sea Shepherd agreed to pay out $2.55 million to resolve civil contempt charges brought against them in a US court for attacking Japanese whaling ships.
SEA SHEPHERD STILL WANTS TO SAVE WHALES, BUT NO IDEA HOW FOR NOW
Watson says that while Sea Shepherd’s activities in the Southern Ocean have come to an end, but the group is not abandoning the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. “The decision we have had to face is: do we spend our limited resources on another campaign to the Southern Ocean that will have little chance of a successful intervention OR do we regroup with different strategies and tactics?” says Watson. “If something is not working the only recourse is to look for a better plan, because when a plan no longer works, the only alternative is an improved course of action.”
It’s not immediately clear what this new strategy might entail.
JAPAN LOOKS TO KILL 4,000 MORE WHALES, AS PLANNED
Japan’s Fisheries Agency says it’s skeptical of Sea Shepherd’s latest announcement. “It’s not clear what the real intention of their statement is and we don’t know whether the organization will stop its anti-whaling actions this year,” explained an unnamed ministry official to Reuters. “We can’t deny the possibility that other anti-whaling groups may take action, so we continue to closely monitor the situation and we’re not making any predictions.”
One thing that can be predicted, however, is Japan’s next mission to the Southern Ocean. The fleet will leave its home port later this winter for Antarctic waters, and like its previous two “scientific” expeditions, the whalers will capture 333 minke whales as specified by a self-imposed quota. The Japanese whaling fleet, which goes by the Institute of Cetacean Research, is in the midst of a 12-year program that will result in the slaughter of 4,000 whales.