"Crimes" of Compassion in the Southern Oceans

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin

The wild, wild, West is so yesterday.

It's the wild, wild, South at the bottom of the Earth that remains the last lawless frontier on the planet.

The poachers are running the show and the Sheriff is nowhere to be found.

There are two major criminal gangs on the loose down here. The Japanese outlaw whalers and the Patagonia toothfish bandits. Both gangs are packing guns and looting resources.

The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin is the vigilante bounty hunter trying to uphold the law in a place where the law is regarded as a joke.

The Sheriff in the name of the government of Australia rode in on a macho named vessel called the Oceanic Viking to ........ take pictures!

Looking for some evidence, they said before high tailing it north to the saloons of Fremantle to jaw on about "how something gotta be done, but we don't know exactly what we're gonna do mate."

Meanwhile the indigenous inhabitants of these parts are dying in the hundreds as cruel blunt tipped harpoons savagely violate their flesh, ramming explosive grenades deep inside their bodies shredding the soft internal organs of defenseless whales, leaving  them thrashing in agonizing misery  as the sea steams with their wasted hot blood.

The horrific screams of the whales echo across these lonely remote waters where none can hear their pitiful pleas for help.

It is those screams that have brought us down to these waters to do what we can with the resources available to us to stop the slaughter.

There is an Australian court order prohibiting the killing of the whales but a court order without enforcement is meaningless. There are international laws prohibiting the crimes being committed in these waters but these laws are also meaningless without enforcement.

Toothfish poachers pull endangered fish from the seas with impunity threatening to shoot anyone who interferes with their thieving and plundering.

Meanwhile in Canberra, politicians mumble on about radical conservationists taking the law into their own hands. Academic legal blow-hards spout rhetoric condemning anyone who tries to save a whale as a pirate or an eco-terrorist.

The rudderless government that promised to stop the killing seems more interested in maintaining its role as resource vessel to imperial Japanese trade interests.

In Japan, the government screams "eco-terrorism" anytime someone holds up a protest sign opposing their illegal whaling.

Politicians and academics, milquetoast greenies and bureaucrats condemn any form of activism that does more than posture and pose.

And the whales keep dying, harpooned, drowned, electrocuted, and mutilated. They die in unimaginable agony, choking on their own blood and sea-water with gaping wounds spurting blood by the gallons into the cold sea.

It is this crime, this senseless, sadistic slaughter, this monstrous, miserable massacre of the whales that has brought my crew and I to these frigid remote waters. We have sailed as volunteers into harm's way for one reason and that is to stop the killing.

It is an awesome task with shackles of impossibility that makes our job unbelievably difficult. We are opposing violent killers and armed criminal poachers on eight ships crewed by a Unions controlled by the Japanese Yakuza, backed up by powerful xenophobic Japanese politicians who would rip the sun from the sky in the name of blind patriotic nationalism.

Thrown into this mess are out of control Namibian, Uruguayan and other assorted poachers trying to catch the last Patagonian Toothfish and prepared to shoot anyone who gets in their way.

And the Sheriff has sailed off to parts unknown to develop his pictures of mother and baby whales slaughtered side by side so that all of Australia can lament the horror and do......absolutely nothing.

I sometimes wonder why I do this, year after year, tracking down and hunting poachers, saving whales in the Southern Oceans, seals in the North Atlantic, sharks in the Galapagos, sea-turtles in the Caribbean?

I have been accused of being obsessed and the truth is that I am indeed obsessed. I am driven to stop the carnage because I have seen the steady diminishment and impoverishment of life in the seas ever since I was a boy and I cannot choose the path of helplessness and inaction.

Years ago, when I attempted to save a large bull Sperm whale from a Soviet whaler, the whale was struck in the head by an exploding harpoon showering me in the blood and gore as the whale thrashed in screaming agony on the surface of the Pacific.
Suddenly that whale saw me, and he dove and I saw a trail of bloody bubbles coming fast and furious towards where I sat in a small inflatable boat.

The whale rose out of the water, lower jaw open and towered above me ready to fall forward and crush me. He was so close I could have reached out and wrapped my fingers around one of the six inch long teeth. His breath was hot on my face and it was then that I looked into a solitary eye and in that eye, an eye the size of my fist, I saw understanding, I saw compassion and I saw pity.

That whale understood what I was there for. Instead of coming forward to crush me, I saw his muscles move and with his dying strength I saw him fall back and begin to slide into the sea. I saw my own reflection in his eye as that infinitely wise orb disappeared beneath the waves.

And I saw pity. Not for himself or his kind but for us. We were killers without reason or passion, thinking little of the life we were extinguishing, killers devoid of empathy, devoid of feelings.

And I thought, why were the Russians killing these whales? Primarily for spermaceti oil used for lubricating machinery under high temperatures. And one of the uniquely human inventions that the oil was being used for was the manufacture of intercontinental nuclear ballistic missiles and that was when a realization hit me that we were insane.

We were killing great intelligent sentient feeling socially complex creatures to produce a weapon meant for the mass incineration of human beings and we were being condemned as violent eco-terrorists for opposing this depraved lunacy.

And the killing continues as whales die to inflate national pride in Japan.

It is only compassion for my own species that prevents me from killing the killers and added to this is the frustration of being viewed by anthropocentric society as being violent for trying to end violence, of being viewed as criminal for trying to end criminality, of being irrational for trying to address the insanity of humanity.

But as to why I am down here presently chasing the Japanese whaling fleet through a maze of ice bergs at the bottom of the world through the most hostile and remote waters on Earth - the answer is that I looked into a dying whale's eye and what I saw there shamed me and filled my heart with compassion to do all that I can to stop this horror in the wild, wild remote waters of the ironically designated Southern Whale Sanctuary.

Where she blows is where she dies and the killers justify their criminality in the name of national pride.  The whales are dying for criminal profits and the Sheriff is missing in action leaving only us "compassionate criminals" in these waters to protect the gentle giants from the savagery of our own kind.