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Sea Shepherd: We are in the Southern Ocean, Admiral, because you are not

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1 March 2013 09:30

Captain Paul Watson (pictured) is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

According to retired Australian Rear Admiral James Goldrick, the campaign by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to defend whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary from Japanese whalers may lead to a Japanese-Chinese war in the East China Sea.

I have to admit, such an idea has simply never occurred to me. It is flattering to think that this Admiral believes our small non-governmental organisation wields such global influence that we can spark a world war. But I think his flight of fancy has gotten the better of his common sense.

In reply to Goldrick's rather bizarre criticism that Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary could lead to war between China and Japan, I can only say that the political conflicts between them are of little concern to the Sea Shepherd crews and myself. We are ocean ecologists and marine conservationists, NOT politicians, nor are we concerned with militaristic and nationalistic squabbles over imaginary boundaries; and we are certainly not interested in which nation gets to exploit the resources around a couple of remote islands in the East China Sea.

I suppose the simple answer to why Sea Shepherd is protecting the whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory, Admiral Goldrick, is that you are not. If the Australian Navy was here, there would be no need for Sea Shepherd to be here.

Sea Shepherd is in the Southern Ocean because it is an internationally established sanctuary for whales and it is also an Australian sanctuary for whales. The key word here is 'sanctuary' and both the international community and Australia recognise these waters as a sanctuary for whales. The bottom line is that whales should not be slaughtered in a whale sanctuary.

Japan is targeting endangered Fin and Humpback whales and protected Antarctic Minke whales in this sanctuary and they are doing so in violation of the global moratorium on commercial whaling that came into effect in 1986. The Japanese whaling fleet is also in contempt of a ruling by the Australian Federal Court prohibiting the killing of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. The court ruled that the whalers were in violation of the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Japan is also in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.

Sea Shepherd has blocked several attempts to refuel the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru with heavy fuel oil because it is a violation to transport HFOs below sixty degrees south. Sea Shepherd informed the whalers they were welcome to fuel their vessels legally north of sixty.

Sea Shepherd became actively involved in the Southern Ocean in 2005 because all diplomatic approaches to Japan since 1986 had failed. The efforts of the Greenpeace Foundation to protest the whaling also failed. Whales died as Greenpeacers held banners and took pictures. The status quo was unchanged and the status quo meant whales were continuing to be brutally slaughtered.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not a protest group. We are an anti-poaching organisation and we intervene against illegal activities. Sea Shepherd is working in partnership with the Ecuadorian Federal Police and the Galapagos National Park Rangers to stop poachers. We are intervening in the Mediterranean to protect endangered bluefin tuna. We are working with West African nations to stop illegal fishing off their coasts. Our concern is for the conservation and protection of oceanic biodiversity.

Sea Shepherd has conducted nine campaigns to the Southern Ocean without causing a single injury. We have not damaged any of the whaling ships. On the other hand, the whalers have rammed our ships multiple times and completely destroyed a $1.5 million trimaran, after which they simply refused to be questioned by New Zealand investigators. Yes, we have thrown stinky rotten butter at the whalers; they have retaliated with concussion grenades, rifle fire, long range acoustical devices and bamboo spears. When they deployed prop-foulers, we deployed prop-foulers; when they deployed lasers, we deployed lasers. But in every confrontation we took pains to make sure that none of them were targeted. In contrast, the whalers took pains to injure us.

What is most relevant are the results. Where all other approaches have failed, Sea Shepherd reduced the whale kill to 26% of the kill quota last season and 17% the season before. This season we estimate it will be below 10%. The Admiral may not be impressed but those who care about the conservation of whales do. That is why they support us and that is why our support base grows stronger every year.

What is surprising to me is that Admiral Goldrick wants us to stop saving whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary so that Japan is not perceived as weak in the eyes of the Chinese. I really had not thought of that possibility and it has given me the idea that perhaps Sea Shepherd should seek the support of China. After all, no other country is upholding international conservation law, and if they were, Sea Shepherd would not have to be taking on this responsibility. Maybe on the grounds that the enemy of my enemy is my ally, we can convince China to take some constructive action against illegal Japanese whaling activities in the North Pacific.

Japan is isolating itself from other nations because of its illegal whaling, its vicious annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins, its insatiable appetite for fish that is driving numerous species to the brink of extinction, and its ridiculous assertion that the so-called 'food culture' it promotes as justification for its ecological destruction is being opposed because of racism. Japan demands to be respected yet Japan has not demonstrated much respect for the conservation of biodiversity in the oceans.

Sea Shepherd's objective has always been to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically; to bankrupt them. There is a limit to the millions that Japan can continue to throw away in its pathetic attempt to subsidise a brutal, destructive and illegal industry that has no place in the 21st century.

Admiral, our war is with the whale poachers and respectfully this has absolutely no connection with nationalistic sabre-rattling between these two traditional enemies. I don't care which nation gets to plant their rag on the Senkaku/Daioyu islands. My objective is to protect the integrity and the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whales Sanctuary for the whales and for the future of humanity.

Photo by Flickr user GENTIKMONOEIL BONPIEDBONOEIL.

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