Monday, January 18, 2016

Sea Shepherds To Launch New Campaign

The last time US Person posted about the resumption of commercial whaling by the Japanese, it was not clear what the response from the most active whale defense organization, Sea Shepherds, would be. The legal avenues against Japan's whaling program have been all but shut off. The organization announced on Christmas Eve that the Society's ship, Steve Irwin, wold depart from Fremantle in early January to patrol near Antarctica during the 2016 season. The Society has harassed Japanese whaling operations for the past eleven years, and played a major role in Japan abandoning its 2014-15 commercial whaling season in the Southern Ocean. The ICC ruled the whaling to be a commercial activity posing as scientific research. Since then Japan has revamped the legal justifications for its commercial activity and refused to recognize international jurisdiction over its activities.
a minke mother & calf; credit: UK Guardian

Radical Captain Chakravarty said that the Steve Irwin will, if necessary, directly interfere with whaling by "either putting Steve Irwin in the slipway of the Nissin Maru to stop the transfer of whales or they will be blocking the illegal fishing vessels from deploying their fishing gear." So far the Australian government has limited itself to diplomatic efforts to dissuade Japan from killing whales.  It declared a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean within its zone of economic interest, but Japan does not recognize it.  Scientists have characterized the so-called whale research as "producing more sushi than science." Last April a scientific panel of the International Whaling Commission found Japan's new program was not scientifically based, adding that whale research can be conducted through non-lethal means.

Four nations have cautioned both the whalers and the environmentalists saying they oppose commercial whaling but also "condemn any actions at sea that may cause injury or loss of human life".   The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Netherlands said they would respond to unlawful activity in accordance with law, but the US State Department was unwilling to be specific about what steps it might take if an incident takes place.  Australia and New Zealand took Japan to the International Court of Justice which issued a unfavorable finding causing Japan to re-work its claimed exemption from the international ban on commercial whaling.   Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said his organization has saved the lives of over 5,000 whales while not causing a serious injury to either side. Hansen asked, "What is the point of the [ICC] ruling if no one is going to enforce it?"  Good question.

On another front, the Society agreed to pay $2.55m to Japanese whalers for breaching a US Ninth Circuit injunction to stay clear of Japanese whaling vessels. The injunction against Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson and anyone interfering with their navigation in the Southern Ocean was issued in 2012, but the group was involved in physical confrontations with the whalers in 2013. The payment puts a possible contempt proceeding behind the group and its senior leadership.