Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorial articles from 2012 and earlier.

For articles from 2013 and newer, visit our Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorials page.


South Korea Abandons Their So-Called Scientific Whaling Plan, but ‘By-catch Whaling’ Continues

Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen

Minke Whale Spyhopping in the ArcticMinke Whale Spyhopping in the Arctic
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd
Last week South Korea was praised for their formal decision to abandon their plans for ‘scientific’ whaling. Under International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules, a formal proposal for the hunt was required by December 3. The proposal was not filed.

An international outcry ensued after South Korea unveiled their plan to resume whaling at the IWC meeting in Panama in July of this year, South Korea claimed they would use a loophole in a global moratorium that permits the killing of whales for "scientific" research. South Korea’s Commissioner announced that the country’s position was that it did not accept that whales should not be killed or caught.  He further asserted that the IWC was a forum for legal (not moral) debate, and that ‘moral preaching was not appropriate’ on the issue of whaling.

South Korea was one of the first countries to take the scientific whaling route after the global moratorium on commercial hunting was set in 1986, but the program lasted only a single season. The program was abandoned under activist and diplomatic pressure.

Rock Band The Scabs Invite Sea Shepherd Belgium to Their Final Concert of 2012

Guy Swinnen, singer for the Scabs, wears a Sea Shepherd Shirt during the concertGuy Swinnen, singer for the Scabs, wears a
Sea Shepherd Shirt during the concert
Photo: Sea Shepherd
One of Belgium’s finest and most popular rock bands, The Scabs, displayed their dedication and interest in marine conservation, by offering Sea Shepherd space to set up an information table during the band’s last concert of the year.

The show took place December 1st in Ghent. Having been a huge fan since 1987, SSCS Belgium Director, Anne Van Ingelgem, was delighted; not just for the concert, but also for the opportunity to spread awareness of Sea Shepherd’s work.  “It was a fantastic gig!” she exclaimed.  “The Scabs played all my favorite songs: Matchbox Car, So Called Friends, Nothing on my Radio, I Need You, and many more. They were sharp and on point!” Frontman Guy Swinnen wore a Sea Shepherd T-shirt for the duration of the performance and guitarist Willy Willy proudly displayed the Sea Shepherd Jolly Roger logo shirt during the encore.

Sea Shepherd wants to thank the Scabs for their support. It means a great deal to us.  We look forward to working with the Scabs again in the future to spread awareness of the issues facing our oceans.

Sponsoring the Oceans Prison Wardens

Commentary by Gary Stokes, Sea Shepherd Hong Kong

Dolphin trainers in Taiji selecting a dolphin for a life of imprisonmentDolphin trainers in Taiji selecting a dolphin
for a life of imprisonment
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The annual meeting of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers Association) is currently taking place in Hong Kong. This gathering consists of dolphin trainers from around the world, all meeting to discuss whatever dolphin trainers discuss when they get together and judging by their “Opening Video” this could be quite frightening to say the least!

Back in 2006 IMATA issued a position statement, which condemns the inhumane killing of dolphins and other cetaceans in the Japanese drive fisheries.  However, IMATA still has many members that are connected to the Taiji dolphin slaughter. One very prominent IMATA member is the Beijing Aquarium, one of this year’s event ‘Facility Sponsors’. In a press statement on their own website, the Beijing Aquarium proudly announces their new-found friendship with Taiji and “the two sides plan to build a platform to archive the imported marine mammals in the aquariums all over China.” At the same time, the Taiji Whale Museum formally became a friendly sister of Beijing Aquarium. They have imported many dolphins and whales from Japan to this aquarium.

So it doesn’t look like IMATA is doing a very good job of distancing themselves from the Taiji slaughter.

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Captain Watson onboard the SSS Steve IrwinCaptain Watson onboard the SSS Steve Irwin
Photo: Tim Watters / Sea Shepherd
This week is my birthday week and a wonderful week indeed because I received the best of all possible gifts. The deck of the Steve Irwin is again under my feet. I have an awesome crew and our ship is on course for Antarctica.

It has been a long journey from Germany to where I am now.

Across two oceans and countless rivers, over three mountain ranges, across a desert, over lakes, and through dozens of cities and towns.  A total of 9,000 miles covered from Frankfurt, Germany to the Southern Pacific Ocean.

A trifle inconvenient without a passport or any form of identification and all the more difficult without credit cards or access to ATM machines, without access to the internet or even a cell phone.

Dark to the point of invisible but it was this invisibility that has kept me out of the clutches of Japan — despite their resources, their small army of lawyers and their ability to use their economic clout to place me on the Interpol Red List on politically motivated bogus charges.

It has been seven months since the Germans detained me at Frankfurt airport and four months since I left Germany.

I would not have made it here without the loyalty and resourcefulness of supporters, friends, and family.

And because of them, I now have returned to the Steve Irwin, traveling primarily through the largest and most free nation in the world – The Ocean!

I can’t go into details of my travels over the last four months.  I may have to do it again sometime in the future.

More importantly, we need to now focus on the immediate future and not the recent past.

Our ships and our crew are on the move. The Steve Irwin and I are at sea. The Bob Barker left on November 30th from Sydney. The Brigitte Bardot is also at sea and the Sam Simon remains in an undisclosed location amidst rumors and speculations as to what and where it is. All I can say is that Locky MacLean, a citizen of both France and Canada, is the Captain.

I am now the Captain of the Steve Irwin once again. Peter Hammarstedt, a citizen of Sweden and the USA, is the Captain on the Bob Barker and captaining the Brigitte Bardot is world famous French sailor, the legendary Jean Yves Terlain.

Four ships with four captains and officers and crew, 120 people from 24 nations: Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Great Britain, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

The objective of Operation Zero Tolerance is to intercept and intervene against the intent of the Japanese whaling fleet to murder 1,035 whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Our purpose is twofold: to save the lives of whales and to cost the Japanese whaling industry as much as we possibly can in financial losses. Last year, we cost them roughly $22 million U.S. dollars despite the fact that they received a $30 million dollar subsidy stolen from the victims of the Japanese Tsunami Relief Fund.

And as always, our actions are undertaken in the Buddhist spirit of Hayagriva, where we do not cause physical injury to our opponents. We target their intentions and thwart their lethal ambitions, but we never harm them. Unfortunately, they do not share our compassion and thus the risks our crews face are considerable.

We have never been stronger, nor more determined. Our dedication to defending the integrity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is undiminished, for we know that the key to success is persistence, patience and perseverance.

We have succeeded in bankrupting the whaling fleet. We have sunk them economically. Now we need to sink them politically.

Back in 1977 we opposed the slaughter of whales in Western Australia when Australia was a stubborn whaling nation. Today, Australia is the leading nation in the world defending the whales. That gives me great hope for Japan. Japan can be a great force for good with marine conservation, and more and more Japanese are supporting us every year. I believe that one day Japan will be a nation that also protects the whales and no longer kills them, just like Australia has become today.

Whaling is becoming unpopular in Japan. Only a few years ago, the Japanese whaling fleet would depart from the dock with cheering crowds, bands, ribbons and widespread media coverage.

They departed this week from an obscure location, without fanfare; shamefully sneaking out to sea for fear that we would see them.

Earlier in the month we issued a statement saying that we would confront them off the coast of Japan and apparently they believed it. Their Coast Guard mobilized and they went to a great deal of expense and effort to sneak quietly out of port.

Of course we had no intention of heading North at all. We are waiting for them in the South, but before they reach the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Our ships will spread out to guard the approaches to the Sanctuary and once the Nisshin Maru is found we will block any attempt to undertake whaling operations.

I do hope that this will be the last year we must make the long, expensive and dangerous voyage to the Southern Ocean but we will return again next year and the year after that, and every year thereafter until the whale killing is ended.

We have become the guardians of the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and we will never surrender to these killers.

A special thank you to all of you who have donated to Sea Shepherd and made it possible for our ships to be where we are now. We still need your help to refuel the vessels to allow us to keep our stations down here at the bottom of the planet as the guardians of the great whales.

We do what we do so the whales may live. We do what we do for the children of the future, so that they may live in a world with whales, for when the whales are no more, the sea will die and when the sea is no more – we, all of us, will die!

As I stand on the bridge wing of the Steve Irwin looking over the vast inky blue shroud of the ocean, I see between the sea and the amber cloud speckled golden sky — a single spout directly ahead and that spout symbolizes life.

As the sun sets to the west, a flash of green sparks on the horizon and I feel that there can be no place I would rather be or anyplace that I could be more happy than upon these life-sustaining waters on a quest to defend Leviathan.

Zero Tolerance
Visit our
Operation Zero Tolerance
site for more information about our
2012-2013 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Crewmember Erwin Vermeulen

editorial-121128-1-1-dolphins-1Spotted dolphins in freedom
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd
The short-tailed albatross breeds on islands off the coast of Japan. They have been hunted on an industrial scale for their feathers since the second half of the 19th century. An estimated 10 million birds might have been killed. By the 1930s there was only a small population left on the island of Torishima. The hunting, however, continued, and when the Japanese government finally declared a ban on hunting in 1933, the animals were gone. Scientists and researchers declared the short-tailed albatross extinct, but an estimated 50 individuals, juveniles spending years on the wing before reaching sexual maturity, survived at sea. After the return of the birds, the first egg was laid in 1954. Still under threat from, for instance, long-liners, they are slowly recovering from the massacre.

No such luck for the Japanese sea lions, who once inhabited the Sea of Japan. They were killed for food, oil was extracted to fuel lamps, internal organs were used for oriental medicine, the skin was turned into leather, and the whiskers used as pipe cleaners. By the 20th century capture for circuses was added to this list. By that time the number of sea lions killed was already falling drastically. Japanese mass murder of Japanese sea lions ended in the 1940s when the species became extinct.

There is also no hope for the Japanese river otter. After not being seen for more than 30 years, it was declared extinct by the country’s Ministry of the Environment, last September. Once numbering in the millions, Japanese river otters were hunted for their fur. After massive slaughter they suffered the final blow when their habitats became destroyed and polluted.

Japan is in no way unique in their terrible track record of protecting animals and their habitats. Japan is, however, one of the few countries that stubbornly persist in butchering animals both at home and on other parts of the planet with complete disregard for the fate of the species or biodiversity.

editorial-121128-1-2-taiji-coveMass dolphin slaughter site, the Cove in Taiji
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd

A good example is Japan’s Mitsubishi empire. With a 40% share of the world market for Bluefin tuna, it started importing thousands of tons of these prized fish this millennium, while their numbers were plummeting because of overfishing. The deep frozen Bluefin tuna will catch astronomical prices when this amazing fish goes commercially extinct as predicted. A perverse investment in extinction.

Another example is whaling. When the Soviets finally shut down their floating abattoirs in the late 1980s and many of the large whales were on the brink of extinction, Japan’s factory ship kept roaming the oceans, as the last of its kind, robbing the planet of these magnificent creatures. And it still is, it still sails out twice a year.

Japan says that the dolphins they butcher in Taiji or the whales they kill in the Southern Ocean are not endangered. Besides the fact that there are no reliable numbers for any of these beings, that claim was also once the truth of all whale species. There was a time that Japanese sea lions were not endangered. There was a time that the Japanese river otter was abundant. Alas, no more.

Japan demands respect for their culture and traditions, always the last line of defense when reason and common sense fail. There can be no respect for a tradition of extinction, nor can the rest of the world close their eyes to the criminal acts of cruelty committed. Where the morally bankrupt government of Japan fails, people who do care have to step in. Sea Shepherd is the only organization actively intervening to enforce conservation law and to show these atrocities to the world.

That is why we need more volunteers to come to Taiji and that is why we need donations to fuel our ships.

Cove Guardians
Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.
Zero Tolerance
Visit our
Operation Zero Tolerance
site for more information about our
2012-2013 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign


Wildlife Species are a Public Trust, Not Disposable Trinkets

Sea Shepherd’s position on the aquarium trade

By Robert Wintner, member of Sea Shepherd’s Board of Directors

Live fish ready to be sold onlineLive fish ready to be sold online
Photo: Robert Wintner
The aquarium trade serves a dark hobby, confining coral reef wildlife and destroying reefs around the world. Stripping reefs for an amusement industry is theoretically no different than capturing cetaceans for commercial shows. 98% of aquarium fish are wild caught. Many people may not reflect on the colorful fish in glass tanks used as furnishings for offices, bistros, waiting rooms, or homes—and some people may assume those fish are bred in captivity. The fact is that 2% of those fish are captive-bred and 98% are taken from the wild. This devastating practice results in severe mortality rates from the point of capture through handling, shipping, and acclimation. Coral damage is well documented and often witnessed with viewers observing anchors, chains, and nets in the coral and collectors breaking coral in pursuit of a few more bucks.

The aquarium trade is covered in verbiage, but trafficking in reef wildlife for the pet trade is not sustainable or “captive-bred whenever possible.” 40 million reef fish and invertebrates supply 1.5 million aquariums around the world, annually. Wildlife species are a public trust, not disposable trinkets. Marine reef systems are intricately balanced, with each species performing a role in reef maintenance and balance. Multiband Butterflyfish do not leave their reef by choice. Once stripped of Multiband Butterflies, the species is lost to that reef indefinitely. The Hawaiian cleaner wrasse is a charismatic, vital species endemic to Hawaii. They set up cleaning stations where many species gather for grooming in a social setting. Hawaiian cleaner wrasses die in thirty days of captivity without 30-40 other fish to clean, yet they ship out daily for retail sale. Many reefs in Hawaii are now vulnerable to parasite loading. Yellow tangs are herbivores, grazing on algae dawn to dusk to prevent reef suffocation, yet they ship out by the millions to enhance aquarium trade profits. Hawaii’s Director of Natural Resources should not be an aquarium collector. Nor should reef species be sacrificed to support any amusement industry, including sales of tanks, stands, lights, tickets, or decorative trinkets. Under pressure worldwide from acidification, climate change, and associated events—like crown of thorns starfish invasions triggered by warmer water—coral reef systems must maintain optimal immune systems with a full balance of species.

Will You Pledge $9.00 to Save a Whale?

SSS Steve Irwin and SSS Brigitte Bardot at seaSSS Steve Irwin and SSS Brigitte Bardot at sea
Photo: Billy Danger/Sea Shepherd
In honor of Sea Shepherd’s Ninth Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, we are issuing a special fundraising challenge for one week beginning Monday, Nov. 19th. We are calling upon our supporters worldwide — whether you are new to Sea Shepherd or have been supporting for years — to donate just $9 toward the Operation Zero Tolerance campaign. If each of you who believe in our work and our critical mission would donate just $9, I know we will easily reach our $2 million goal. Why not make that pledge? No other marine conservation group puts their bodies and their equipment on the line, between the whalers and the great whales, to save lives. If you wish to give more, consider giving in multiples of 9 such as $99 or $999. Whatever amount you choose, please give what you can so we can defend the whales that inhabit the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and bring them the peace they so rightly deserve.

This could be the first year the whalers get zero kills, but we need your help to pull it off! Operation Zero Tolerance is not yet fully funded, and if we don't raise the necessary donations to see us through the next three months that make up this campaign, we may be forced to retreat earlier than planned — allowing the whalers to poach whales at will.

Once you give, you can watch your donation in action, as illustrated by the silhouette of our flagship, Steve Irwin, ‘filling up’ as we climb toward our fundraising goal. Please support Sea Shepherd’s vital work and send a strong message that you have Zero Tolerance for killing whales in an established whale sanctuary!

Together we will be there to defend, conserve and protect the great whales! Join us!


Captain Paul Watson

Zero Tolerance
Visit our
Zero Tolerance
site for more information about our
2012-2013 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign


Protecting the Giant Pacific Octopus

The issue of law vs. ethics in protecting our oceans

Commentary by Suzanne West, Sea Shepherd Seattle Chapter Coordinator

Giant Pacific OctopusGiant Pacific Octopus
File Photo
As a resident of the Seattle area, I have developed a great appreciation for the waters of the Puget Sound. Many tourists visit our region to experience the great diversity of our landscape and a variety of tourist attractions, but some of the best sights can be found underwater. There is a long and rich history of diving here in this region and there are many popular locations for the local dive community. Recently, an incident occurred at a popular dive spot and it has created a call to action to protect the giant Pacific octopus by classifying an area as a new state Marine Protected Area.

Like something out of a horror movie, a scene unfolded at Cove 2 on Alki beach on Halloween. Witnesses saw a diver dragging a giant Pacific octopus out of the water. The diver, identified as Dylan Mayer was seen punching the octopus. An article in the Seattle Times quoted Mayer (age 19) as reporting that he had no choice but to punch the octopus as it had wrapped its tentacles around his mask, nose, and mouth and he couldn’t breathe. He said it was extremely aggressive and “it did not like people and that led me to believe it was a newer one in the area, and not one of the regulars, which I let alone.”

The Return of a Dangerous Ecological Criminal

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Ocean Iron FertilizationOcean Iron Fertilization
Photo: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Can a man rape an ocean?

A few months ago a so-called geo-engineer named Russ George did just that. He spewed 100 tons of iron sulphate into the sea in an attempt to breed plankton in a scientifically suspect effort to capitalize on carbon credits.

Sea Shepherd is very familiar with Mr. George.

We stopped him in the Galapagos in 2007. We stopped him in Bermuda, Madeira, and the Canary Islands in 2008. We helped to drive him into bankruptcy in 2009.

Now he’s back.

This criminal polluter has managed to do off the coast of Western Canada the very thing we stopped him from doing off South America and Africa.

Satellite images have confirmed that George has spawned an artificial plankton bloom that is covering 10,000 square kilometers. He did this by dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate in the Pacific Ocean in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the Canadian islands of Haida Gwaii.

Cove Guardians Begin Live Stream of Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji

Commentary by Omar Todd

EZ Earth TV archive footageLivestream footage of the captive pens
File Photo
The battles we fight have always more than one front. We are first an aggressive, non-violent, direct-action organization. One of Sea Shepherd’s greatest tools has often been the camera, even before the days of social media.  The camera can capture the raw emotions, feelings, and action in details which social media cannot.  It can be surgical in its precision when showing a particular moment or atrocity. This becomes intensified when the viewer realizes what they are seeing is actually taking place at the moment he or she watches. The camera captures moments that would otherwise be lost or too easily ignored by those that would rather pretend tragedy and slaughter does not happen.

One man in particular has been there with his camera at the ready from the very beginning and is possibly the oldest veteran crewmember apart from Captain Watson himself. Peter J. Brown began as a cameraman for CNN on one of Sea Shepherd’s earliest campaigns and has been involved with Sea Shepherd, in one way or another, ever since.  Last year’s documentary Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, which consists of film footage carefully taken over a period spanning 35 years on various Sea Shepherd campaigns, is the crown of his work so far.