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Turn clock back 25 years to legalize commercial whaling? 2,039,621 whales killed, <3k fin escaped hunting, protector in cell


By WcP.Observer - Posted on 26 April 2010

Captain Paul Watson & Skipper Peter Bethune
Left: Captain Paul Watson & 'Steve Irwin'. Top R: Skipper Pete Bethune. Ignoring 6 crew in sight, the 750-ton iron-and-steel ship Shonan Maru 2 sliced 17-ton fiberglass ecoboat Earthrace/Ady Gil into two when it was idle in the water, waiting to be refueled, 6 crew sitting on the deck, chatting.

commercial whaling of the endangered fin whale
Fin whale, the 2nd largest mammal on earth: size comparison against an average human. Scientists calculate that 2,039,621 whales were killed in Antarctica's Southern Ocean during the decades of industrial whaling, including roughly three quarters of a million fin whale.

endangered fin whale killed in Iceland
Top L: In 2006, Iceland killed the endangered fin whale for the 1st time since the 1980s. Top R & Bottom R: free & imprisoned Pete Bethune, skipper of Ady Gil / Earthrace.

endangered fin whale a target of Japanese commercial whaling
Captain Paul Watson leads Sea Shepherd, volunteers & ocean guardians, spending 8 months per year at sea, fighting illegal whalers, sealers, and shark and dolphin fishermen. The latest Sea Shepherd Whale Defense campaign cut Japan whalers’ quota in half & saved 528 whales. 750,000 fin whales, the 2nd largest creature, were killed in the S. Hemisphere alone between 1904-79, & less than 3,000 currently remain. IWC's compromise would legalize commercial whaling. The endangered fin whale would continue to be a target.

"Every April on Earth Day, we are reminded of the critical need to shepherd our Earth away from the forces of greed, to defend the defenseless, and to give a voice to the voiceles ", says Captain Paul Watson, "Japan’s whaling vessel cut one of our ships in half, not being questioned by the authorities in New Zealand, Australia or Japan. So in other words, they're above the law... Japan is twisting everybody's arms economically."

(quote)

First legal commercial whaling in nearly 25 years moves a step closer with ‘compromise’ between nations such as Japan and US

On April 22, Earth Day 2010, the International Whaling Commission released its proposal of permission to hunt under strict quotas, bringing the world a step closer to the first legal commercial whaling in nearly 25 years. The commission was formed in 1946 to deal with whaling issues and has 88 member countries.

The proposal would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland – which hunt whales under a variety of exceptions to a 1986 moratorium – to catch whales for 10 years, but under strict limits set by the IWC that would reduce the overall catch. Japan’s self-imposed annual quota of 935 Antarctic minke whales, which are not endangered, would be lowered to 400 over the next five years, then reduced to 200 for the next five years. The country’s current take of 320 sei and minke whales in waters near Japan would be cut to 210. The proposal is an attempted compromise between pro-whaling nations and opponents such as the United States and Australia. The commission argues that allowing whaling under strict quotas would be an improvement to the current hunts, over which it has no control. Various small indigenous groups could continue to hunt in limited numbers. The IWC is preparing for a general meeting in June in Morocco, where it will debate the proposal.

Environmental groups were quick to criticise the proposal, which they say could lead to an eventual return to the large-scale whaling of the past, which devastated many species. “At the moment, it appears that the whales are making all the concessions, not the whalers and this proposal keeps dying whaling industries alive and not the whales,” said Greenpeace Japan programme director Junichi Sato in a statement.

Despite a 1986 moratorium on whaling, Japan hunts whales for scientific reasons. Excess meat is sold for consumption, leading critics to call the programme a mere cover for commercial hunts. Norway and Iceland also defy the ban under other exceptions. Together, they have an annual cap of about 3,000 whales, 10 times as many as in 1993.

The newest proposal from the commission’s chairman suggested specific catch quotas for various species. It would allow 69 bowhead whales, 145 grey whales, 14 humpbacks and 109 fin whales to be hunted each year around the world.

New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said the IWC’s proposal does not deliver what New Zealand wants – that it must be significantly better than the status quo and meet the country’s commitment to end whaling in the southern ocean. “The catch limits proposed in the southern ocean are unrealistic. The proposal to include (endangered) fin whales in the southern ocean is inflammatory. New Zealanders will not accept this,” he said in a statement.

On the front lawn of New Zealand’s parliament, about 100 Greenpeace anti-whaling protesters Friday held black whale-tail placards aloft with “RIP?” written across them in white letters.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has published draft proposals for regulating whaling, in other words, legalizing commercial whaling after a 25-year ban on commercial whaling since 1986

Japan's Antarctic whale hunt would fall in stages to less than a quarter of its current size. But hunting would continue on the endangered fin whale. The draft is the latest stage in a two-year process aiming to find compromise between pro- and anti-whaling camps. It will be debated at the IWC's annual meeting in June. Some conservation groups have already condemned it. Commercial whaling was banned globally in 1982, but Iceland, Japan and Norway continue to hunt under various exemptions, collectively targeting more than 2,000 whales each year.

Seeking sanctuary - Key countries, including the US and Japan, have limited comments to saying they will consider the draft proposal carefully. But some conservation and animal welfare groups have already indicated opposition. "The fact that this proposal is even being discussed shows just how far out of touch the IWC is with modern values," said Claire Bass, manager of the Marine Mammal Programme at the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

Captain Paul Watson Earth Day message of thanks for his Sea Shepherd supporters: 'Please remember the crisis currently facing our oceans and please show your support for our vital cause. Sea Shepherd is the only direct action marine defense organization in the world to do what we do, and we couldn't do it without support from people like you,' said Watson. In the news, the Sea Shepherd Whale Defense campaign reportedly saves 528 whales. 'Every April on Earth Day, we are reminded of the critical need to shepherd our Earth away from the forces of greed, to defend the defenseless, and to give a voice to the voiceless. We hope you will stand with us in the coming weeks and months as we embark on our next campaign to defend the bluefin tuna.. '

According to Watson, "Operation Waltzing Matilda was a spectacular success, and we are excited to report that more than half of the whaling fleet's quota was not met, because of our interventions and your support!"

The Japanese whaling fleet set out for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with a permit issued by the Japanese government to kill 935 protected Minke whales, 50 endangered fin whales and 50 endangered humpback whales. Their objective was to kill 1035 whales in total.

"We are happy to report that we saved 528 whales - our biggest impact on the whale quota to date! Please read on to learn more about this exciting news," shared Watson.

Update on Captain Bethune, who is now declared a political prisoner:

Captain Pete Bethune of New Zealand will face no less than five separate charges related to his boarding of the illegal whaling vessel Shonan Maru No. 2, which occurred in the Southern Ocean on February 15, 2010, during Sea Shepherd's sixth campaign to stop this barbaric poaching operation.

Captain Bethune's home country has been surprisingly quiet regarding this arrest. Regardless of the government's position, the citizens of New Zealand and around the world are rallying for Pete's defense, wishing him a swift return to his wife and children.

To help please visit the Support Captain Bethune page or make a donation today.

On this Earth Day, the Sea Shepherd is proud to congratulate Randall Arauz for winning the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize, for his work in drawing international attention to the inhumane and environmentally catastrophic shark finning industry in Costa Rica. Announced every April to coincide with Earth Day, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabited continental regions.

Captain Paul Watson adds, "Every April on Earth Day, we are reminded of the critical need to shepherd our Earth away from the forces of greed, to defend the defenseless, and to give a voice to the voiceless. We hope you will stand with us in the coming weeks and months as we embark on our next campaign to defend the bluefin tuna where we will be Pirates of Compassion in pursuit of Pirates of Profit and Greed. Thank-you for making our ocean conservation campaigns possible and for thinking of us this Earth Day."

Colorado Spring Independence: Japan’s Whaling vessil cut one of our ships in half, deliberately rammed our ship. The ship sunk. Australian Maritime [Safety] Authority told us to not go back on the boat, but my crew went back on board, drained every single drop of oil. There was no oil spill. ... I don't know of any case in maritime history where a captain has deliberately rammed, or accidentally collided with another ship, and nobody questioned them. He hasn't been questioned by the authorities in New Zealand, Australia or Japan. So in other words, they're above the law. [Indy: Why do you think that is?] PW: Because Japan is twisting everybody's arms economically.

Fifty-nine-year-old Capt. Paul Watson has no plans to retire any time soon. Head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, early leader of Greenpeace and current star of Animal Planet's Whale Wars, Watson spends about eight months per year at sea, primarily fighting illegal whalers, sealers, and shark and dolphin fishermen.

His full white head of hair and beard give him a pleasant seafaring look fit for a Disney flick. His history — including handcuffing himself to seal pelts and placing himself between harpoon sea vessels and sperm whale pods — tells a different kind of tale, one of a feisty and committed marine wildlife defender running an organization that's no stranger to controversy.

Just consider the past few months, during "Operation Waltzing Matilda," the sixth Sea Shepherd voyage to Antarctica to stop whale killings. In February, another one of Sea Shepherd's captains, Peter Bethune, was arrested for boarding an illegal whaling ship to conduct a citizen's arrest, after said ship rammed his, breaking it in two. One day prior to the Indy's interview with Watson, the BBC reported that Japan's whaling fleet had returned to port with about half the amount of whales as it had planned to bring in — directly blaming Watson and Bethune for their interference.

A day after our interview, the BBC reported that scientists had confirmed sale of Japanese whale meat in the United States and Korea. (Though commercial whaling was frozen by an international moratorium in 1986, Japan continues to fish for the endangered species, claiming "scientific research.") According to the scientists, the research proves that "illegal trade in protected species" — one of the very acts about which Watson regularly speaks out — continues to go on.

In advance of his appearance at Colorado College, the Indy spoke with Watson about the recent voyage, his clashes with Japan, and what we as individuals can do to help his organization's cause.

Indy: There's big news being reported right now about Japan's whaling fleet.

PW: Yes, we predicted that outcome and it happened, so it was good.

Indy: So it's been a good season overall for you, then?

PW: Yeah, we estimated that cost them about $132 million in losses. ... and I'm being very conservative on the price of a whale, a quarter-million a whale. It's probably more than that, because one whole bluefin tuna is worth $250,000.

Indy: One of the things I read about as a result of [Japan returning with 528 fewer whales than targeted] was that Japan's fleet leader has been quoted as saying that you say you "want to protect the ocean, but [you] don't care about leaking oil or leaving pieces of a broken ship [the Ady Gil] behind."

PW: Oh, that's ridiculous. You know what that is? They cut one of our ships in half, deliberately rammed our ship. And, yeah, the ship sunk. But the interesting thing about it is that Australian Maritime [Safety] Authority told us to not go back on the boat, but my crew went back on board, drained every single drop of oil. There was no oil spill. ...

The other thing that's interesting is that I don't know of any case in maritime history where a captain has deliberately rammed, or accidentally collided with another ship, and nobody questioned them. He hasn't been questioned by the authorities in New Zealand, Australia or Japan. So in other words, they're above the law.

Indy: Why do you think that is?

PW: Because Japan is twisting everybody's arms economically. The Ady Gil is a New Zealand-registered vessel, with a New Zealand captain, and New Zealand has done nothing. That's why Pete Bethune [captain of the Ady Gil] went on board to confront the captain who destroyed his ship. And now he's in jail, and they've charged him with all sorts of absurd things, including the sword control act of [1876], which, by the way, was the act that Emperor Meiji used to destroy the Samurai tradition.

Indy: Can you talk about where Bethune's situation stands right now?

PW: Yeah, he's still incarcerated. And we're referring to him as a prisoner of war, by the very fact that if he was any civilian captain, he would've been. We got a letter from him, or a message through his lawyer about four days ago — and you know, Pete knew exactly what he was doing when he went on there, and the consequences, so he's not whining at all. In fact the opening of the letter was, "Oh, at least I haven't been jumped by some Sumo wrestler in the showers, so everything's fine."

Indy: He could see up to 15 years in jail.

PW: They always say that, but what they usually do with foreigners is convict them, give them a heavy sentence, and then they'll deport them.

Indy: How do you address people who feel what you're doing is excessive or militant?

PW: Well, we don't injure anybody. We haven't broken any laws. And we saved 528 whales this year, so personally I'm not concerned about the criticism. My clients are whales, not people. If anybody can find a whale that disagrees with those results, I'll take it to heart.

Indy: You've said in the past, "If the oceans die, then we all die." Can you explain?

PW: The fact is that right now, every single commercial fishery is in a state of collapse. I mean, Jacques Cousteau said just before he died that the oceans are dying in our time, and it's true.

If we diminish biodiversity in the oceans, we can cause an ecological collapse in the oceans, and if the oceans die then humanity dies, because we have an intimate connection with the sea. It sustains life on the planet. It's our life-support system. And people don't seem to realize that.

When you think about it, this is not Planet Earth, this is Planet Ocean. There just happen to be some earth pieces floating around on it.

Indy: The average American can't go out and do the work that you do. If you could suggest one thing each person could do to join the fight, what would it be?

PW: ... If there was one thing that I would say — if people really want to protect the oceans — it's stop eating fish. There's simply not enough fish in the oceans to continue to feed the ever-expanding number of people.

Account from survivor Ady Gil crew member Mike Smith, of Tauranga: I was one of the crew on the Ady Gil, the boat formerly known as Earthrace that was rammed by the Japanese in Antarctica. I am a firefighter in the NZ Fire Service, not a radical activist or terrorist like many people seem to think all Sea Shepherd crew are. I feel strongly enough about putting an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary that I took an opportunity to stand up for what I believe in.

We were a crew of six on the New Zealand flagged vessel the Ady Gil — two ex policeman, a navy diver, a firefighter, mechanical engineer, and a cameraman. We did not deliberately put ourselves in harms way (see unedited footage shot from the Ady Gil on youtube). Instead we were idle in the water, waiting to be re-fuelled and sitting on the roof talking, when the Captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately turned towards us. He had water cannons firing and the LRAD (acoustic weapon) activated and he deliberately rammed us, endangering our lives. And all with no repercussions.

I wonder what would happen to me if I chose to drive an 18-wheeled truck at you while you were sitting in your car with some friends, parked on the side of the road, and you caught it all on video? You all managed to get out of the car but only just and it was destroyed. Would you ask me to pay for your vehicle? Would you want to see me arrested?

This is what Pete Bethune (skipper of the Ady Gil) has done. He wanted justice and when no one else would, he stood up for himself and his crew and boarded the Shonan Maru No. 2 to make a citizen’s arrest of its captain, and hand him a bill for his destroyed boat.
The Ady Gil was not just a boat to Pete, it was his life for the last few years — he put all his money and energy into creating the world-record breaking, environmentally-friendly vessel, and then had to watch as it was sunk into the southern ocean because of the actions of illegal whalers.

Pete is now being held as a prisoner, being fed rice and cabbage in a Japanese jail, and our government is effectively doing nothing.

The Government needs to represent its citizens and put pressure on the Japanese to set Pete Bethune free. It should also demand that the Japanese co-operate with Maritime Safety New Zealand on the investigation into the ramming of the Ady Gil and then press charges against the Captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2.

The Government says it has an anti-whaling stance but it wants to make a deal with the whaling nations (Japan, Norway, Iceland) that would see commercial whaling legitimised. This makes New Zealand look hypocritical and gutless, setting us back decades.

We are strong enough to say no to the United States of America on nuclear issues and continue to trade with them, but when it comes to Japan and the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary we can’t seem to stand up and do what we know is right. We need to say NO to Japan and stand strong and support the Australian Government’s proposal to end whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The endangered Fin Whale is the second largest being on earth, or that has ever lived on earth, reaching lengths of 60 - 80 feet. It is second in size only to the Blue Whale. It is the only creature with asymmetrical coloring...it's head is white on the right side but dark on the left. It has baleen plates in its mouth instead of teeth, and folded pleats of skin, or "roquals", that expand out allowing the whale to gulp in a large amount of water and fish. It then syphons the water out through the baleen, leaving the fish trapped inside the whales mouth. Its numbers were severely depleted in the early days of whaling. Protected since the 1930's, their numbers have not recovered and is considered endangered. Japan has recently resumed hunting these protected mammals in defiance of the International Whaling Moratorium.

Scientists calculate that 2,039,621 whales were killed in Antarctica's Southern Ocean during the decades of industrial whaling. The fin whale was the most commonly caught whale during this time; roughly three quarters of a million were killed. Today, only a small fraction of the fin whale's original numbers remain. In spite of the fin's endangered status, they are again being taken by pro-whaling nations. Caught in greater numbers than any other whale during the 20th century, the heavily exploited fin whale is being targeted once again.

The fin whale was heavily hunted during the twentieth century and is an endangered species. Almost 750,000 fin whales were taken from the Southern Hemisphere alone between 1904 and 1979 and less than 3,000 currently remain in that region.
The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), also called the finback whale, razorback, or common rorqual, is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second largest whale and the second largest living animal after the blue whale, growing to nearly 27 meters (88 ft) long.

Long and slender, the fin whale's body is brownish-grey with a paler underside. There are at least two distinct subspecies: the Northern fin whale of the North Atlantic, and the larger Antarctic fin whale of the Southern Ocean. It is found in all the world's major oceans, from polar to tropical waters. It is absent only from waters close to the ice pack at both the north and south poles and relatively small areas of water away from the open ocean. The highest population density occurs in temperate and cool waters. Its food consists of small schooling fish, squid, and crustaceans including mysids and krill.

Like all other large whales, the fin whale was heavily hunted during the twentieth century and is an endangered species. Almost 750,000 fin whales were taken from the Southern Hemisphere alone between 1904 and 1979 and less than 3,000 currently remain in that region. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has issued a moratorium on commercial hunting of this whale, although Iceland and Japan have resumed hunting: in 2009, Iceland took 125 fin whales during its whaling season, and Japan took 1 fin whale in its 2008-2009 Antarctic season. The species is also hunted by Greenlanders under the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling provisions of the IWC. Collisions with ships and noise from human activity also significantly threaten recovery.

Captain Paul Watson Earth Day message of thanks for his Sea Shepherd supporters. 'Please remember the crisis currently facing our oceans and please show your support for our vital cause. Sea Shepherd is the only direct action marine defense organization in the world to do what we do, and we couldn't do it without support from people like you,' said Watson. In the news, the Sea Shepherd Whale Defense campaign reportedly saves 528 whales. 'Every April on Earth Day, we are reminded of the critical need to shepherd our Earth away from the forces of greed, to defend the defenseless, and to give a voice to the voiceless.'

Paul Watson: The fact is that right now, every single commercial fishery is in a state of collapse. I mean, Jacques Cousteau said just before he died that the oceans are dying in our time, and it's true.

If we diminish biodiversity in the oceans, we can cause an ecological collapse in the oceans, and if the oceans die then humanity dies, because we have an intimate connection with the sea. It sustains life on the planet. It's our life-support system. And people don't seem to realize that. When you think about it, this is not Planet Earth, this is Planet Ocean. There just happen to be some earth pieces floating around on it.

Colorado Springs Independence: Japan’s Whaling vessil cut one of our ships in half, deliberately rammed our ship. The ship sunk. Australian Maritime [Safety] Authority told us to not go back on the boat, but my crew went back on board, drained every single drop of oil. There was no oil spill. ... The other thing that's interesting is that I don't know of any case in maritime history where a captain has deliberately rammed, or accidentally collided with another ship, and nobody questioned them. He hasn't been questioned by the authorities in New Zealand, Australia or Japan. So in other words, they're above the law. [Indy: Why do you think that is?] PW: Because Japan is twisting everybody's arms economically.

(unquote)

Question: Which countries are suddenly & surprisingly turning their backs on whales and on blue fin tuna?

Photos courtesy of AP, EPA / Tony McDonough, Eric Cheng / Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Wikipedia, Greenpeace / Axelsson, IWC, and Stuff.co.nz

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