Sea Shepherd Backs Off Japanese Whaling Fight

Sea Shepherd vessel, right, clashes with a Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean, December 2013 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)


BURBANK, California, August 28, 2017 (ENS) – Captain Paul Watson says his nonprofit marine conservation group, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, will not pursue the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean as it has for the past 12 years due to the military technology Japan is now using.

Watson said today, “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.”

During Operation Nemesis in 2016-2017, the Sea Shepherd ships did get close, says Watson, and their helicopter managed to get evidence of their illegal whaling operations but the Sea Shepherd could not physically close the gap.

“We cannot compete with their military grade technology,” said Watson.

“This year,” Watson explained, “Japan escalated their resistance with the passing of new anti-terrorism laws, some of which are specifically designed to condemn Sea Shepherd tactics. For the first time ever, they have stated they may send their military to defend their illegal whaling activities.”

Sea Shepherd vessel, right, clashes with a Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean, December 2013 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)

“The Japanese whalers not only have all the resources and subsidies their government can provide, they also have the powerful political backing of a major economic super-power,” Watson said.

But the Sea Shepherd is limited in resources and faces hostile governments in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Watson said, “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?”

He has decided to regroup and come up with a different plan to shut down “the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet,” but Watson vows he will not abandon the whales or the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The result of Sea Shepherd efforts over the past 12 years include the saving of more than 6,000 whales. No endangered Humpback has been killed and only 10 endangered Fin whales were killed in a decade where 500 were slated to die.

The Japanese whalers have lost tens of millions of dollars over the 12 year period of Sea Shepherd intervention, Watson claims.

Watson calls Japan’s whaling illegal because it is conducted under a provision of the International Whaling Commission rules that allows for research whaling, but Japan takes the meat from the whales they catch and sells it for profit.

Sea Shepherd exposed Japan’s activities to the world with the Animal Planet TV show “Whale Wars” and the organization’s own documentation.

Captain Paul Watson stands in front of the M/V Steve Irwin in Brisbane, Australia before departing for Antarctica in Sea Shepherd’s Operation Musashi 2008-2009 campaign. (Photo by John)

Watson says Sea Shepherd helped to push Australia into taking Japan to the International Court of Justice, IJC, where in 2014 Japanese whaling operations were ruled unlawful. Japan was ordered by the ICJ to cease and desist.

The court ruled that Japan’s “scientific” whaling program was not scientific at all – and ordered Tokyo to recall its fleet.

The ruling stated that the IJC did not believe it was necessary for Japan to kill whales in order to study them.

Japan started its whaling program in 1987, a year after an international moratorium on whaling was enacted by the International Whaling Commission.

Japan stopped whaling for a year and then returned with a new program, that Watson says is also illegal. The new program reduced their self-allocated kill quota from 1,035 whales a year, including a yearly quota of 50 endangered Humpbacks and 50 endangered Fin whales, to 333 whales each year.

This means that since 2015, 1,400 whales have been spared the lethal harpoons. This means that 702 whales will continue to be saved every year.

Now, Watson says, it’s time for the Australian government to live up to its promises. He says Sea Shepherd has been down in the Southern Ocean doing what the Australian government has the responsibility to do but have refused to do, and that is upholding international and Australian conservation law.

Instead of supporting Sea Shepherd the Australian government has been supporting the Japanese whalers by harassing Sea Shepherd and obstructing Sea Shepherd’s ability to raise funds by denying the group’s status as a charitable organization.

whale battle
Sea Shepherd crew aboard the M/Y Steve Irwin throw bottles of rotten butter at Japanese harpoon whaling vessel, Yushin Maru No. 3 while the whaling crew fires back with water cannons, Feb. 6, 2009 in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. (Photo by John)

Watson is proud of his work, saying, “The Japanese whalers have been exposed, humiliated and most importantly have been denied thousands of lives that we have spared from their deadly harpoons. Thousands of whales are now swimming and reproducing, that would now be dead if not for our interventions.”

“And perhaps more significantly than anything else, there are now voices in the Japanese government opposing the continuation of whaling. Our efforts have been like acupuncture needles stuck into Japanese society, probing and provoking responses. We have exposed the incredible waste of money, the corruption and the shame this dirty business has brought to all the Japanese people,” Watson said.

He says Sea Shepherd’s efforts to go after and shut down whalers will continue, not only against Japanese whaling, but also against Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic whaling.

“This is what we have been doing for 40 years,” Watson said, recalling his early intervention against Russian whalers off the California coast in 1975, even before he formed the Sea Shepherd two years later.
Watson said, “We will never quit until the abomination of whaling is abolished forever by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.”

Sea Shepherd is taking other actions to save theatened marine life, including the critically endangered vaquita porpoise in the Gulf of California.

“The endangered Vaquita would now be extinct if not for our intervention,” Watson says. “We shut down the entire Southern Ocean pirate toothfish fleet. We have intercepted and stopped poachers off West Africa, in the marine reserves of the Galapagos, Sicily and Panama. We have removed hundreds of tons of ghost nets and plastics from the sea, and most importantly we have shown the world what a few passionate and courageous people can do.”

“Our objective is to continue to serve and protect all life in the Ocean from illegal and greedy exploitation by destructive humans,” Watson said. “Sea Shepherd is guided by this one reality: If the Ocean dies, we die!”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2017. All rights reserved.


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