The Opening Shots of a 17-Year War to Save the Whales

Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

From the coast of Antarctica: This season, when the first Japanese harpoon was fired and the first whale screamed and died as its hot blood poured steaming into the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean, a new war was launched against the whales.

This war presents us with incredible challenges and demands an incredible commitment.

The Farley Mowat is on the trail of the Nisshin Maru in open ocean off the coast of Antarctica. For three days, the winds have been blowing, the barometer has been dropping and the sea has been churning.

The Whalers killed five whales on Christmas Eve and none on Christmas day. We have no reports from today. This kind of weather does not stop them from hunting, but it does make it more difficult.

The Farley Mowat is not as fast as the Japanese whalers nor the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, but it is a good heavy weather ship because she was built for operations in the North Sea. Whereas the Esperanza can follow the whalers, the Farley Mowat must intercept and disrupt as we did on Christmas day.

The Japanese have a plan called JARPA II. It is a 16-year plan to exterminate 17,000 minke whales, 800 humpbacks, and 800 fin whales.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society needs to address this plan and to do so we need a vessel that has the speed to keep up with the killers. Greenpeace has the Esperanza but Greenpeace is not assisting Sea Shepherd, and Greenpeace does not do what the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does.

This is a movement of diversity. Greenpeace is an organization that believes bearing witness to the whaling and publicizing the killing is the best way to oppose it. Greenpeace has been successful indeed in publicizing Japanese whaling. They have not been successful in stopping it. No one has.

The problem is that the Japanese whalers don't really care. People around the world have been protesting illegal Japanese and Norwegian whaling since 1986. The result is a steady increase in the quotas that they set for themselves.

Not one whale has been saved from the Japanese harpoons ever. That unfortunately is a fact. They have been stopped for a day or two, they have been harassed but the whales continue to die, and every year they obtain and most likely exceed their quota.

The signatory nations of the International Whaling Commission like Australia, New Zealand, the USA, France, and Britain etc... talk big about conservation and there are books of laws and regulations protecting the whales, all of which go unenforced as the killing continues and the body count of whales increases. During the next 16 years, 18,600 whales will die in the waters off Antarctica. They will be killed illegally.

Japanese whaling will only be stopped by enforcement of the rule of law against their illegal activities.

What this means is that we must continue to oppose the killers every year and to do so we need the equipment to do the job.

We need a long range, fast ship capable of carrying a helicopter, Jet Skis, and small fast boats.

We need to be down here enforcing the law and not just protesting against the Japanese violation of the law. We need to protect and defend the great whales from the murderous corporate greed of the Japanese whaling industry.

To do this, Sea Shepherd must do something we have resisted for years. We need to get big. We need to expand. We need to build a warchest to allow us to obtain the resources to be effective against those who are illegally destroying life in the sea.

We need to do this without building up a bureaucracy and without compromising our tactics, but unless we expand, especially in the area of fundraising, we will not be able to stop these killers.

The great Catch-22 of organizations and movements is that the groups that are big enough and rich enough to afford the means to effectively address the issues are compromised by the bureaucracy and politics that accompany the growth of small effective organizations into large, less effective, bureaucracies. As revenues increase, activism is toned down, less risks are taken, and more obstacles are placed in the path of campaigns.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will address this by establishing an activist policy that will be unconnected to and uninfluenced by the administrative policies of the organization.

Our approach must be taken directly from the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Simplify, simplify, simplify."

Keep it simple, keep it effective, and raise the funds to get the gear needed to increase effectiveness.

We are now in a long campaign to overthrow JARPA II. We must never surrender to the whalers. We need the financial power of a big organization allied to the dedicated activism of grassroots volunteerism.

This war needs the Greenpeace approach and it needs the Sea Shepherd approach. It needs governments to step forward to uphold the laws. It needs protestors in front of embassies, educational campaigns in Japan, activism and enforcement on the high seas. We need a diversity of organizations, individuals, strategies, tactics, and ideas to win this war for the whales.

The 21st Century must be the century when humankind ends its ruthless, barbaric, and insane slaughter of the whales. We must stop silencing the minds in the sea and we must learn to live in harmony with the whales and the other species that share the oceans with us.