Posts Tagged ‘sea shepherd’

The End of Whaling

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

It’s getting close.

The annual Japanese whaling season in the Antarctic has now ended. Granted a quota of 1000 minke whales by the International Whaling Commission to be killed for ‘scientific purposes’, they killed less than 300, along with a single finback.

Typical view of a minke whale, the smallest of the 'Great Whales'. (

Globally, about 2000 whales, mostly minkes, are still killed each year. Besides the whales they kill in the Antarctic, the Japanese also hunt several hundred in their own territorial seas in the North Pacific. Iceland and Norway illegally kill about 600 hundred whales, unsanctioned by the IWC. Another several hundred whales are killed annually, but legally, for subsistence reasons by native populations in Greenland, Russia, the US and Canada.

Greenpeace at work interfering with the Japanese hunt in the Antarctic (

The Japanese whaling in the Antarctic gets most of the attention, partly because everyone knows scientific whaling is a hypocritical mask for commercial hunting. One of the reasons for the reduced catch this year was the harassment by anti-whaling ships of both Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The Sea Shepherd Society has again been the most militant, sending its ship the Bob Barker after the Japanese ships, trying to foul their propeller blades with ropes. The Japanese have responded with water cannons, as they have before. Not surprisingly, a collision occurred.

Collision: Sea Shepherd's 'Bob Barker' at work interfering with Japanese whaler, in the open sea, about 2400 km from southern Australia, not far from the Antarctic coast(

This has not been a conservation issue. The anti-whalers are there to defend ‘animal rights’, and they have had little difficulty raising funds to do so.

The Japanese are there in defense of a waning Japanese cultural tradition of eating whale meat, willing to sustain the hunt despite the disapproval of most of the world, but still oddly intent on keeping to the letter of the IWC laws prohibiting the killing of whales for commercial purposes.

The 'Brigitte Bardot' a scouting vessel of Sea Shepherd, before it got badly damaged by high waves near the coast of Antarctica this year. (

But the taste and market for whale meat is declining everywhere – at least in Japan, Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. The cost to the Japanese of hunting whales in the Antarctic is considerable, and is subsidized by the Japanese Government. The cost of the anti-whaling effort almost as much as cost of the hunting.

The anti-whalers won’t stop until the Japanese do, but there are indications that the Japanese might stop next year. The Japanese could use some help in saving face on this, for otherwise the farce could still drag on.

The 'Yushin Maru' leaving port to do some research on the whales it will kill. (

A couple of months ago a proposal in Nature got some attention: why not put a price on each whale in the Japanese quota and let the conservation organizations buy their freedom, removing them from the hunted quota? At $13,000 per minke and $85,000 per finback, the Japanese would make their money, the lives of the whales wold be saved from the hunt, and the anti-whalers wouldn’t have to spend the comparable millions in harassing the whalers.

Another typical view, this time of a finback, one of the largest whales.(

This doesn’t sound unreasonable – other schemes of trade have worked to reduce carbon emissions and to conserve forested land. But as others have also pointed out, the whalers are in it at least in past for the tradition, not just the money, and the anti-whalers are not conservationists, they are animal-rightists, and funding for them is not an issue.

Interesting, though, to put a real price on the value of minke whale, the smallest of the whales, or on a much larger finback. This helps to focus our moral compass, don’t you think?

In fact the whole affair is neither comical nor tragic. It is just farce, absurd behaviour by all participants, wasting funds, energy, time and whales, in attempts to uphold two indefensible positions.

Brigitte Bardot when she was still an actress, before she became an animal-rights activist . (

Killing Whales

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

To kill whales or not to kill whales.

The International Whaling Commission originally was organized to recover populations of Great Whales in order to sustain whaling, and implemented a moratorium on hunting of all the Great Whales. As more and more nations have joined the Commission – there are now an amazing 88 of us – it has increasingly become an anti-whaling, conservationist organization. The result is intense disagreement between those who wish to reinstate the hunt of apparently recovered populations of Great Whales, and those who wish to continue to protect them from hunting.

Humpback mother and calf: a once and future target, despite their songs

Extremists contol the agenda as they often do, and everybody loses.

At one end are the members of Sea Shepherd, willing to protect whales at any cost, convinced of the righteousness of what they do. Perhaps you have checked them out. Here’s a blog of one who was present as an observer at the Morocco meeting You can get the sense of commitment, intransigence, and a willingness to occasionally use violence.

Sea Shepherd's ship, the Farley Mowat, heading off to battle (paul taggert wpnnews)

At the other end are the Japanese who have continued whaling despite the moratorium, whaling under the guise of doing ‘scientific research’, trying in every way possible to ‘encourage’ other members of the IWC to vote for the reinstitution of commercial whaling, as unwilling to compromise as the most strident ecoterrorists.

Will the moratorium on hunting the great whales be lifted? Will Japan change its ways, and cease to hunt whales ‘for scientific research purposes? Once again, not this year.

Last month at the annual IWC meeting, this time in Morocco, an odd compromise was floated. Let’s allow some limited commercial whaling of some relatively abundant species, and close the whaling-for-research loophole. It didn’t get anywhere – no vote, but tabled for a year to allow calmer consideration. Japan wanted more whaling rights than the proposal allowed for, and conservation nations were split. You can imagine where Sea Shepherd stood.

But what is the solution? Tabling the compromise for a year perhaps provides time to develop a better proposal, perhaps gives Japan more time to lobby for (some say buy) more support of its position. Extreme conservationists, like Sea Shepherd, have more time to harass Japanese vessels whaling in the Antarctic.

The Japanese hunt - for 'scientific research' - continues (

For any hope of resolution, the extreme positions of course must be abandoned. Surely there are objectives that most would agree with.

Despite the howls of the extremists, how about these:
– Endangered whale species should be allowed to recover at least to sustainable population levels.
– The Antarctic should continue to be a sanctuary for whales, enforced through economic sanctions.
– Whaling for scientific research should be terminated.
– Limited commercial whaling is probably going to be necessary to keep population numbers of some species at reasonable levels. Recovery of populations to historic levels is not a viable option, for the oceans have deteriorated in too many ways.
– Arctic Inuit should be able to hunt small numbers of whales, as they have traditionally done for many centuries.
– Small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, pilot whales) should receive the same protection as the Great Whales.

Whale kabobs in Iceland, another wannabe whaling nation (

The Inuit apologise to the whales – and fish – that they kill to eat. Not a bad idea. We need to co-exist.