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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 05:41 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 05:41 | SYDNEY

Whaling: A sanctuary is a sanctuary

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COMMENTS

12 March 2013 12:39

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

Michael Heazle proclaims both Rear Admiral Goldrick and myself to be wrong. That is his right. Like everyone else, he has an opinion and the freedom to express it.

His viewpoint is that Sea Shepherd is not upholding international conservation law in defending the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was established by the International Whaling Commission in 1994, with 23 countries supporting the agreement. The status of the Sanctuary is reviewed every 10 years. In 2004, Japan tried to remove the sanctuary of its status but failed to recruit the 75% majority required.

A Sea Shepherd crew member hurls a bottle of butyric acid (rotten butter) at Japanese whaling ship. Photo by Flickr user guano.

It is therefore a sanctuary for whales, and commercial whaling is not allowed within the sanctuary.

Maybe I am naïve but when I see an area designated by international agreement as a whale sanctuary, I just see it as a whale sanctuary. I don't see it designated as a whale sanctuary 'open to interpretation'. So what is it about the word 'sanctuary' that Japan and Michael Heazle do not seem to understand?

I don't see anything broad or ambiguous about this. A sanctuary is a sanctuary and a sanctuary for whales is a sanctuary for whales. I fail to see why Mr Heazle thinks I am being vague about this definition. It is as simple to understand as simple gets.

It is somewhat strange to me that Mr Heazle does not understand the term 'international community'. The UN recognises the International Whaling Commission as the authority on whales and whaling, so when the IWC proclaims an area a sanctuary for whales, I think it means that, in the eyes of the international community, it is a sanctuary for whales. Yes, there is a diversity of views within the IWC but a vote is a vote and the decision was made to proclaim the waters around Antarctica an international sanctuary for whales. Therefore it is legally a sanctuary for whales.

Michael Heazle says the IWC does not represent all the nations of the world and this is true. Prince Albert of Monaco has suggested that responsibility for overseeing whaling be given to the UN and I agree. Unfortunately that idea has not been adopted, so the status quo is that it is the decision for the IWC, and the IWC has decided.

Japan does not adhere to its obligations to the IWC as Mr Heazle suggests, because Japan's so-called 'scientific research' whaling is bogus and everyone knows it. We have witnessed the whales killed, brought onboard and quickly processed without a single scientific measurement taking place. The number of whales killed under Japan's self-allotted scientific permits since 1987 is twenty times the number of whales killed under scientific permit by all nations from 1950 to date.

If there is no clear basis for legal action against Japan's activities in the Southern Ocean, as Mr Heazle states, then why is Australia, supported by New Zealand, taking Japan to the International Court of Justice? Maybe Mr Heazle should enlighten Prime Minister Gillard because the Gillard Government clearly believes it does have the basis to challenge Japan's actions in the Sanctuary.

Japan's whaling operations are in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling in 2008 prohibiting Japan from killing whales in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.

Mr Heazle claims his position is founded on science but there is evidence to suggest that this is not entirely true. Mr Heazle has worked in Japan for many years as a teacher and journalist. He has a production company and produced a documentary on the IWC, and his views are very much influenced by his field of expertise in Griffith University's Department of International Business and Asian Studies. In other words, he has a pro-Japan and pro-business perspective, so of course he will disagree with the activities of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Mr Heazle states that he is genuinely concerned about whale conservation and that the best way to ensure the protection of whales is to resume regulated whaling. I suppose he thinks the best way to save elephants and rhinos from poachers is to have a regulated slaughter of these animals, a kind of 'we have to kill the whales in order to save them' approach.

In response, my position is to ask why we need ivory, rhino horn and whale meat in the 21st century. We have inflicted a horrendous slaughter on the great whales for decades and the ongoing massacre of these intelligent, socially complex, sentient, self-aware beings must be ended.

I have dedicated my life to ending whaling on ethical, legal, and ecological grounds and I have opposed whaling around the globe; in so doing I have opposed many diverse cultures that argue the right to slaughter the whales. It is my moral position that no one has the right to slaughter the whales, for the killing of a whale in my eyes is no different than the murder of a human being.

But that aside, there is the question of sanctuary. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia is dedicated to defending the integrity and the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and will not be dissuaded by a retired Australian Rear Admiral or a pro-Japanese professor of International Business.

If the sanctuary is not a sanctuary then someone should inform us that it is not a sanctuary; but for as long as it is considered under law and fact to be the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary we will continue to view any whalers who violate this sanctuary as poachers.

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