Sea Shepherd Goes To Sea

Whatever you think of Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson, and Sea Shepherd’s confrontational anti-whaling strategy, you have to consider this: in an international whale management regime that seems custom-designed for gridlock and delay, Sea Shepherd is taking action.

Call it uncivil disobedience, and maybe that is an idea whose time has come. Increasingly, domestic politics and international diplomacy work at a pace that is insufficient to match the rapid pace of environmental change and destruction occurring around the globe. So we can rely entirely on the usual channels for resolving problems, and feel good about that, but watch whales die, seas rise, forests disappear, and extinction rates accelerate. Or we can continue with those channels but at the same time take more direct action to shock and galvanize the system to respond more quickly.

I’d argue that is what Sea Shepherd is doing with regard to whaling, and once again the Sea Shepherd fleet is headed to sea to confront the Japanese Antarctic whaling fleet:

Captain of the SSS Bob Barker, Captain Peter Hammarstedt stated, “The plan is for our fleet to meet the whaling fleet in the North Pacific off Japan. We are planning to take the battle pretty much up to Japan itself. We are keeping the location and identity of our new vessel, the SSS Sam Simon, a secret in the hope that the first time the whalers see the Sam, is when she comes into view on the slipway of the factory processing ship, the Nisshin Maru, effectively shutting down their illegal whaling operations.”

Currently docked in Marina del Rey, California on its very first trip to the mainland U.S., the fast scout vessel, the SSS Brigitte Bardot, will depart on November 11 and quickly meet up with the rest of the Sea Shepherd fleet.

Hammarstedt also went on to say “it is expected Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson will appear in command of one of the vessels when the action begins.” Captain Watson has been in an undisclosed location since July 22 when he forfeited his bail and departed house arrest in Germany to avoid being extradited on bogus charges to Costa Rica and Japan.

Australian Director Jeff Hansen stated, “This is our strongest fleet to date, with four ships and more than 100 international crew representing 23 nations to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Operation Zero Tolerance will be Sea Shepherd’s best-equipped and most effective campaign to date. This is a defining moment in Sea Shepherd’s history; we have no tolerance for whale poachers. Our objective this year is 100%. We are going to try and intercept them as quickly as possible, and try to make this the first year they get zero kills.”

I’m excited that dedicated animal rights defender Sam Simon will have a ship out there, and I’m sure it will get into some crazy trouble. But lest you are tempted to dismiss the Sea Shepherd campaign as trivial or a sideshow, please note the fact that Sea Shepherd has likely saved the lives of thousands of whales (they claim more than 3,600).

If you don’t think that really matters, then watch the death of just a single whale (dramatized as it is for Whale Wars). It will make you want to sign on as Sea Shepherd crew.

Whale Wars-Again

Last year, the Japanese whaling fleet, harassed constantly by the Sea Shepherds, went home early, and without killing as many whales as they had planned. Many people took that as a good sign for the future. Apparently, not. The Japanese whaling fleet is gearing up for another Southern Ocean season, and the Japanese government is planning to spend $10 million to send an escort vessel to help fend off Paul Watson and the Steve Irwin. So the stage is set for more confrontation.

The Japanese are saying that they need to continue their “research” whaling in order to make it possible to resume commercial whaling in the future, despite widespread condemnation from countries in the region. The economics of whaling just don’t add up, so it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that cultural stubbornness, and narcissistic preoccupations with the importance of human “face,” is driving the ongoing whale slaughter, rather than any concept or morality, or even economic rationality. The result is sure to help Whale Wars score great ratings. And while I am all in favor of Watson and his team doing everything they can to stop the whale killing, and appreciate the public awareness Whale Wars delivers, I wonder how much of the profits Animal Planet puts into whale conservation.