Antarctic: Whale Conservation
Sea Shepherd intercepts whaling fleet in Southern Ocean
02 Jan 2011 15:13 GMT
Chasing the whalers
The first clashes have occurred between Sea Shepherd volunteer activists and Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary bordering the Antarctic continent. Dodging and dancing perilously through the ice flows (Watch video), Sea Shepherd activists in small inflatable zodiacs and their larger three vessels harassed the three Japanese harpoon vessels while in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru whaling factory ship in the first days of 2011. For the first time in seven years of campaigning in the southern ocean Sea Shepherd have been able to locate the whaling fleet before whaling was able to begin.
The legality of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is being challenged by the Australian Government in a case filed in July 2010 (PDF) before the International Court of Justice, although success is by no means certain. Whaling was found to be illegal under Australian law in a 2008 Federal court ruling. Whaling by Japan is done through a scientific research loophole under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) convention. The whale meat is commercially sold (or stockpiled) in Japan. Under the IWC there is an international moratorium on commercial whaling since 1985.
Cables released by wikileaks on January 1st, 2011 reveal Japan was pressuring the US Government to remove Sea Shepherd's US tax exemption status as a sweetener to negotiating a compromise deal in the International Whaling Commission during 2010 that would have reduced whale quotas but legitimized commercial whaling. Australia remained opposed to the deal, although the cables indicate Australia may have considered conditional commercial whaling outside the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.
Australia Indymedia | San Fransisco Bay Area Indymedia | Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has recently admitted that their officials have received free whale meat from the company contracted to perform the whaling. The two Japanese Greenpeace activists who attempted to highlight this corruption and embezzlement have been vindicated, according to Greenpeace.
This year, like previous years, Japan self issued a scientific permit for a four-ship fleet to slaughter up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this summer. Despite the ramming and loss of the Sea Shepherd Ady Gil last year, the campaign against whaling cut the kill number in half to just 507 whales. "Of the fifty humpback whales that were targeted, they did not take a single one. Of the fifty fin whales that were targeted, they managed to kill only one. Of the 935 targeted Minke whales, they killed 506. In total, the illegal Japanese whalers murdered 507 whales. Sea Shepherd successfully saved 528 whales- our biggest impact on the whale quota to date." said a Sea Shepherd media release in April 2010.
Through Direct action Sea Shepherd is making Japanese whaling in the southern Ocean commercially unprofitable. Sea Shepherd estimates about 700 whales need to be slaughtered for the whaling industry to break even after selling the whale meat. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) during the 2008-09 season, the Japanese whaling industry needed US$12 million in taxpayer money subsidies just to break even. Overall, Japanese subsidies for whaling amount to US$164 million since 1988. The Norwegian Government also subsidises a local whaling industry in the North Atlantic.
According to the International Environmental Law Project (IELP) the IWC has asked its members that conduct research whaling programs to demonstrate that the research provides critical information, that the research is needed for whale management purposes, and that non-lethal research techniques are not able to provide the same information. The IWC has issued at least 19 resolutions criticizing Japan for failing to meet these conditions and asking it to stop issuing permits.
Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation society, has maintained that whaling is illegal under several international agreements and treaties. He maintains "It is not illegal to interfere on the high seas against their illegal whaling activities. In fact, we are legally authorized to do so in accordance with the U.N. World Charter for Nature."
Captain Paul Watson outlined the legal arguments against whaling in 2005 saying:
"It is Japan that is violating international conservation law. The following list summarizes their violations:
- 1. The Japanese are whaling in violation of the International Whaling Commission's global moratorium on commercial whaling. The IWC scientific committee does not recognize this bogus research that the Japanese are using as an excuse.
- 2. The Japanese are killing whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary for whales.
- 3. The Japanese are killing whales unlawfully in the Australian Antarctic Territory
- 4. The Japanese are targeting fin whales this year and humpback whales next year. These are endangered species and thus this is a violation of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
- 5. The Japanese are in violation of IWC regulation 19. (a) The IWC regulations in the Schedule to the Convention forbid the use of factory ships to process any protected stock: 19. (a) It is forbidden to use a factory ship or a land station for the purpose of treating any whales which are classified as Protection Stocks in paragraph 10. Paragraph 10(c) provides a definition of Protection Stocks and states that Protection Stocks are listed in the Tables of the Schedule. Table 1 lists all the baleen whales, including minke, fin and humpback whales and states that all of them are Protection Stocks.
- 6. In addition the IWC regulations specifically ban the use of factory ships to process any whales except minke whales: Paragraph 10(d) provides: (d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of paragraph 10 there shall be a moratorium on the taking, killing or treating of whales, except minke whales, by factory ships or whale catchers attached to factory ships. This moratorium applies to sperm whales, killer whales and baleen whales, except minke whales.