The Death of a Whaler

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

I never met Hajime Shirasaki. I'm sure that if I had met him, we would not have agreed on much. He was a whaler and I detest whalers and I'm sure he detested us for our efforts to protect his victims.

But Hajime Shirasaki was also a human being with a family and friends who will miss him. And for that we sympathize with his family for their loss.

Hajime died yesterday. His body was claimed by the Great Southern Ocean and chances are it will not be recovered. To fall off a ship in these waters in the night means death and every sailor knows it. The water temperature is zero degrees Celsius. Death comes quick in these seas. Still, to watch your ship sail on as you lay helpless and freezing in its wake is a terrifying experience.

Hajime was a young man of 30. Why he decided to join the crew of a whaling ship is unknown to us but it was a decision that he made.

Apparently Hajime, an engine room oiler on the Kyoshin Maru No. 2 a scouting ship for the Japanese whaling fleet, went outside at night by himself dressed only in coveralls. He never came back inside.

There are three possibilities. He accidentally fell overboard. He was pushed or he committed suicide. We will probably never know. What we do know is that he is the third fatality suffered by the Japanese whaling fleet since 2007.

A crewmember of the Nisshin Maru died in a fire in January 2007 and a second crewmember on the Nisshin Maru died in the summer of 2007 in an industrial accident onboard the factory ship. He was crushed in the conveyor that loaded the whale meat into the hold.

The Japanese whaling industry has been screaming about Sea Shepherd being a threat to safety at sea. Yet in the five voyages that Sea Shepherd has made to oppose illegal Japanese whaling, not a single Japanese whaler has been injured and Sea Shepherd has not had any crew injured. We have an unblemished safety record. It appears to me that the whaling industry should improve their safety measures instead of scape-goating us for their lack of responsibility. The truth is that Sea Shepherd does not pose a threat to the crew on the whaling vessels. The whaling industry kills whales and whalers. It is an industry of death.

The crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin send their condolences to the family of Hajime Shirasaki. His death is a tragedy. And the slaughter of the whales is also a great tragedy. How many more whales and humans have to die before Japan abolishes this brutal and barbaric annual slaughter of the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary?