The Birth of a New Manchuria

Whaling is the Foot in the Door for the Economic Assault on the Poles

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin

The present whaling controversy in the Southern Oceans is just a small part of a much bigger picture. For over a century the Japanese have searched for a resource rich territory beyond the borders of Japan to feed their industrial aspirations.

Briefly they held Manchuria and various parts of Asia until their fingers were forcefully and violently pried loose from their prizes. They are now looking far to the South towards a new Manchuria and one far richer than the one China surrendered to them with horrific losses.

The Australian courts have issued a court order barring the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales in the Australian Antarctic Territorial Economic Zone. The Japanese are in this zone now intending to kill whales. Japan claims that Australian sovereignty over this area is not legally binding under international law. There is a need for an international legal case to decide if Australia's claim is legitimate or it is not.

Nautical charts presently depict the dotted line of the Australian Economic Exclusion zone 200 miles off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia prosecutes fishing boats caught in this area without permits. Despite this Australia has failed to intercept Japanese whalers in the same waters. However this month the Australian courts handed down a ruling barring Japanese whaling operations inside the Australian Antarctic Exclusion zone although they have not made up a plan for enforcement of the court ruling.

The Japanese whaling fleet is in this economic exclusion zone now. Instead of enforcement, the Australian Customs and Fisheries Patrol vessel Oceanic Viking is taking pictures to gather evidence of Japan's contempt for the ruling. Last year Great Britain laid official claim to waters off the British Antarctic land claim although this claim is disputed by Chile and Argentina.

What is shaping up here is the foundation for a global conflict over the rich resources of Antarctica. It is starting with marine resources but there is the huge potential for oil, gas and mineral exploitation on the Antarctic continent itself.

My prediction is that there will be a major conflict prior to 2025 over the "rights" to exploit Antarctic resources and nations like the United States and Japan that do not have claims will dispute present claims and will attempt to make new claims of their own. Japan can argue that they have a legitimate claim because of undisputed continuous exploitation of whales in these waters going back to 1946. In other words, whaling is just the foot in the economic doorway to Antarctica itself and the means to wrestle control of mineral rights.

Japan and Norway are looking to Antarctic waters for mega-harvests of krill for the production of protein paste for animal feed. They have already launched exploratory krill fisheries. Japan would also like to exploit penguins. Prior to the Falklands and South Georgia conflict Japan was in negotiations with Argentina for rights to slaughter one million penguins in the Falklands (known as the Malvinas to the Argentineans) and South Georgia for the production of women's gloves made from penguin skin. Fortunately for the penguins the British retained control of the islands.

Nations are now circling the continent like vultures drooling over a fat carcass in anticipation of raping the resources of the last virgin continent on the planet. And Antarctica has another priceless commodity in a world where water resources are becoming scarcer. The greatest reservoir of fresh water on the planet lies at the Southern Polar region. Within a few years mega-tankers will be transporting this water to nations willing to pay for it.

Already a growing tourist industry is stressing the Antarctic eco-system with oil spills and garbage. Global warming will also allow for easier access to Antarctica and the development of port facilities. Russia and Canada may wish to look at the eco-politics being played out in the Southern Ocean. It could bode ill for the High Arctic.

What is happening in the South can have repercussions for the North. As the Arctic Ocean begins to open up sea lanes, fishing vessels will follow. Canada has already sent fishing fleets into the Arctic and it will not be long until Japanese fishing vessels and Japanese whalers will be invading the high Arctic. Their justification will be precedents set by continued exploitation in the Southern Ocean.

All of this might explain just why it is that Japan is willing to subsidize a highly unpopular and controversial campaign to slaughter whales. The whales could be a means to an end. I think the Japanese have their sights set beyond whaling and their real goal is to become the economic masters of Antarctica with a steady stream of rich and fragile resources feeding the factories and markets of Japan.

If they achieve this then Japan's long dream of a possessing a rich resource base will be realized and Antarctica will be their new Manchuria.