The Final Assault on the Cetacean Death Star
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
It has been two months since we began operations with Operation Waltzing Matilda. Two months ago, we began with three vessels. We now have two, having lost the Ady Gil when the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru No. 2 cut it in half and sank it on January 6th, 2010.
During the last two months, the Steve Irwin has engaged the Shonan Maru No. 2 in numerous skirmishes and the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and the Ady Gil engaged the main body of the whaling fleet, a day that disrupted the whaling activities and ended with the destruction of our interceptor vessel.
After the sinking of the Ady Gil, the entire Japanese whaling fleet fled West with the Bob Barker and the Steve Irwin on their tail, and for the next 10 days they did not kill whales as they tried to throw us off their tail. They fled 3,000 nautical miles to the extreme Western boundary of the whaling zone they refer to as JARPA II. The Bob Barker continued to be trailed by the Shonan Maru No. 2.
We had to stop the pursuit when the Bob Barker needed our assistance to provide them with lube oil, and the helicopter on the Steve Irwin required an emergency repair as well. To shake off the Japanese security ship tail, we arranged to meet the Bob Barker in a place where we could safely transfer supplies. The Steve Irwin then returned to Fremantle and the Bob Barker returned to hunt the Japanese fleet.
The Bob Barker lost the tail of the Shonan Maru No. 2 when the Japanese had to desist from entering the territorial waters of Australia’s Heard Island.
Now the Steve Irwin, with helicopter repaired, ship refueled, and re-provisioned after a 48 hour turnaround in Fremantle is heading back to rejoin the Bob Barker to search for and pursue the whaling fleet again.
Operation Waltzing Matilda is turning out to be a tough protracted effort but I am confident we will once again impact their kill quotas despite the new obstacles thrown at us this year by the whalers.
The first of these obstacles is the two security ships deployed to defend the fleet and to intercept us in our efforts to close in on the fleet. The Shonan Maru No. 2 and the Yushin Maru have been working as interceptors. This is an incredibly expensive effort by the Japanese government. Crewed by Japanese security forces, these ships are far more aggressive and dangerous than the whalers. The destruction of the Ady Gil was deliberate and bold, far too bold for the whalers to have dared undertake.
The second tactic of the fleet is to flee for great distances in an effort to exhaust the fuel supplies of the Sea Shepherd ships. Fortunately, the Bob Barker has a far greater range than the whaling ships and the Steve Irwin is heading back with a full load of fuel.
What this means is that we still have two ships and with two months left in the whaling season I am confident that we will engage the whalers again and we will interrupt the killing once again. We expect the whalers to be far more aggressive, but we have no intention of retreating.
As Captain John Paul Jones once said, “give me a ship to sail into harm’s way.”
We now have two ships sailing into harm’s way once again and we expect a tough fight but it is not a fight we intend to shy away from. We expect violence. We expect further collisions. We expect damage. We may lose another ship and we face the prospect of injuries to our crew but we will not back down to these killers no matter what they throw at us.
The risks are acceptable. A ship is expendable: the whales are not.
The morale onboard both ships is high and all the crew are eager to once again confront the whalers.
As we move through the ever changing marine weather systems, from the hot and humid coastline of Western Australia, to the heaving, rolling seas and howling offshore winds, and into the meteorological surprises awaiting us in the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, we feel confident that once again we have whipped up a storm of political controversy further exposing Japan’s outrageously bogus “scientific” research.
Despite the efforts of the Japanese whalers to cast us as anti-Japanese and as outlaws, we are getting our point across that we are down here confronting these whalers not because they are Japanese but because they are poachers. The Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) is nothing more than a front for blatant criminal activity. The Japanese whaling fleet is targeting protected (Minke) and endangered (Humpback and Fin) whales in an established international whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling and in violation of the Antarctic Treaty. They are also killing whales in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling that has ordered them out and prohibited their unlawful whaling activities within the territorial waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
This is the fifth straight year of confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet and during these last five years we have accomplished a great deal. Not only have we cut kill quotas and caused the whaling industry to lose tens of millions of dollars we have made this issue into a global campaign.
Will we win this year? Perhaps we won’t but if not we will be back again next year and the year after that if possible. For the Japanese whalers we intend to make this a never-ending trip to the dentist. We don’t intend to see whales die without opposition and without massive economic costs to their killers. And we are costing them dearly. They lose money with every whale they fail to kill because of our interventions. They lose money with every ton of fuel they consume fleeing from us. They lose money by sending down ships and security forces to prevent us from finding their fleet. They lose money in the incredible expenses they undertake to evade Sea Shepherd’s intervention. That figure was eight million US dollars last year and it will be more this year. We are speaking the one language they fully understand and that is economics. It’s all about profit and loss, and we simply need to keep negating their profits. Our objective is to sink the Japanese whaling fleet - economically, to bankrupt them and to humiliate them.
There is nothing noble about killing a whale. It is a cowardly act and the whalers are abject cowards. They flee from us and they make their living by shooting gentle, intelligent, highly social, and sentient beings in the back with organ-shattering explosive tipped harpoons in a manner so despicably cruel that any slaughter house in the world would be closed if animals on land were slaughtered in the same fashion.
The Japanese government likes to compare whales to cows and chickens, constantly demanding to know what the difference is between eating beef and chickens and the eating of whales. They ask this question to cast us as hypocrites. The fact that our ships are vegan vessels they dismiss as evidence of fanaticism, so there is no way to turn - hypocrites if we eat meat and fanatics if we don’t.
But it is not a question of eating meat or not eating meat. It is a question of the need to kill whales. More cows, pigs, and chickens are consumed by the people of Japan than by the people of Australia. In fact, it is safe to say that beef, pork, and chicken are far more representative of the average Japanese diet than whale.
A more accurate comparison would be to the eating of foie gras, something that—due largely to the sheer cruelty of the practice—a small minority of Westerners eat just as a small minority of Japanese people eat whale meat.
No abattoir in the world would allow the killing of a cow by running after it in a field plunging a spear with an explosive tip into it’s back and than slowly electrocuting it or pumping it full of small caliber bullets until it died forty minutes later.
There can be no comparison to the method of killing.
There can also be no comparison between whales and cows as exploitable animals. Cows are domesticated creatures, genetically modified by humans as food animals. There are over three billion cattle in the world. Humans feed them and raise them and the cow is totally dependent upon humanity for survival.
The whale is a wild, non-domestic, sentient being of far fewer numbers than cows. There is not a single whale population on this planet that exceeds a million in number. It makes no sense to compare the whale to one of the most populous animals on the planet - the cow. Nor does it make sense to compare the slaughter of cows—which is legal—to the illegal slaughter of whales.
The Japanese argue that whales consume large amounts of fish and thus are a threat to the survival of many fish species. This is an ecologically ridiculous argument, but put into proper perspective is the fact that chickens, pigs, and domestic salmon consume some 35% of the fish taken from the sea in the form of fishmeal. The pigs of the world eat more fish than all the world’s sharks. It is human greed that is destroying the fish in the sea - not the whales, the seals, the sharks, or the sea-birds.
Sea Shepherd dramatizes the issues through confrontations and these dramatics get our foot into the media door to address the facts and to explain the ecological realities of the slaughter of whales.
It’s all politics and economics mixed in with sociological and ecological realities, and thus the arguments are complex and divisive.
What is not complex is why Sea Shepherd confronts and opposes the Japanese whaling fleet. We do so simply because what the Japanese whalers are doing is illegal as defined by international conservation law and we as an organization are empowered to intervene in accordance with the principles established by the United Nations World Charter for Nature.
The proof of this is quite simple. Not once in six years of Antarctic whale defense campaigns have Sea Shepherd or any of the officers of the ships or organization been charged with a criminal offense. Not once have we been sued. Not even Japan has laid charges or initiated a lawsuit against us. Why? The last place a criminal operation wishes to go is to court.
The Sea Shepherd ships operate out of Australian ports with the full support of the Australian people. The Japanese whaling ships are prohibited by law from entering Australian territorial waters. Sea Shepherd ships refuel in Australian ports. Japanese ships are not allowed to use Australian ports for refueling, provisions, or repairs. Last year, Indonesia ordered the Japanese whaler Yushin Maru No. 2 to leave Indonesia when it sought repairs from ice damage caused during a confrontation with the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.
Despite public relations propaganda from the Japanese whaling industry, and political pressure from the Japanese government, their accusations of “eco-terrorism” against Sea Shepherd are falling on deaf ears especially from nations having to deal with real terrorist issues.
The world is waking up to and becoming increasingly more disgusted with the ICR’s claims that its cruel and illegal whaling activities are “scientific.” No one is buying that story any longer, and fewer and fewer people are buying into Japan’s so-called cultural justification for whaling.
Japanese whaling is not justified on cultural grounds. Modern pelagic whaling was established in Japan in 1912 by the Norwegians and sent to Antarctica in 1946 under orders from the American General Douglas MacArthur to provide cheap meat for post-war Japanese citizens. Young people in Japan do not eat whale meat anymore. The market for whale meat is ridiculously small and Japanese warehouses continue to store a surplus of whale meat, while much of it is made into pet food.
If not for Japanese government subsidies, whaling would not survive. But many Japanese government officials who are still very well connected and thus influential were given cushy jobs with the ICR, and the union that supplies the crew to the ships is a Yakuza controlled union. The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) have a way of getting what they want in Japan.
And thus we have a criminal activity supported by corruption in the form of influence peddling and bribery in the government, and backed by the most powerful criminal organization in Japan.
What I have found especially interesting is that not once in the years that I have accused the whaling industry of being influenced by the Yakuza has any public relations representative of the whaling industry ever denied it.
When you think about it, the opposition against Sea Shepherd is awesome. On one side we have the ICR supported by the Japanese government and the Yakuza, and on the other we have a small volunteer driven conservation organization that does not enjoy any financial support or protection from any government.
And, we operate at a distinct disadvantage. If one of use were to be killed by the whalers, the Japanese government would justify and defend the crime and we would hear very little from our own governments, all of whom seem terrified to be critical of Japan over anything. Consider the Ady Gil. It was deliberately sunk by a Japanese whaling vessel without a single critical condemnation from any nation and we do not expect any charges to be laid against the Captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 for the simple reason that it would be harmful to trade relations. On the other hand if I were to have rammed and sunk a Japanese whaler, I would most likely now be under arrest and my actions universally condemned.
I do not know what the future holds for our next engagement. Maybe we should ram and destroy a Japanese whaler just to illustrate the blatant hypocrisy that holds the whale killers to one standard and those of us who oppose the killing of whales to another?
But of course we cannot do such a thing because Sea Shepherd has a responsibility to stay within the boundaries of the law and, in keeping with our strict policy of nonviolence, to not cause injury to those we oppose. We have an unblemished record in this regard and it is a record we intend to keep.