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Blog, White Paper

Whale Wars


I wasn’t really sure what to write about for my first argument for the white paper, but I was browsing the channels and came across the show Whale Wars on Animal Planet.  I’ve watched a couple episodes with my sister so I know the background of the show.  Basically a conservation organization called the Sea Shepherd travels by boat to the Antarctic waters in search of the Japanese whaling fleet.  Their goal is to disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet so that their whaling efforts are hindered to the point where they must return home.

I started out my cited reference search on Google Scholar and typed in “sea shepherd” but this didn’t receive many hits so I decided to just go straight to their website and read through it.  Their website contains a ton of information backing up their reasoning for going after the Japanese whaling fleet and the reasons Japan is breaking international law.  Japan is party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and as part of it, they are not allowed to hunt whales for profit.  However, there is a loophole in the Convention which allows countries to hunt a number of whales each year in the name of scientific research.  The problem with this is that Japan is allowed to decide how many whales they need for research.  The whales hunted are then “examined for research purposes” and any leftover whale meat is permitted to be sold for profit.  There is high demand for whale meat in Japan because it is so scarce and thus it is a profitable product.  Seashepherd.org includes links to the ICRW and the IWC and the mandate allowing Japan to hunt whales as well as the IWC resolutions that encourage Japan to stop its whaling efforts (although this is non-binding).

After visiting the Sea Shepherd website, I decided to used Google Scholar to find information about Japan’s stance on the issue.  What does the Japanese government say about the issue and what is their response to the resolutions issued by the IWC and the pressures by the international community?  I found an article in the Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy title “Why Japan Supports Whaling”.  I also found an article on “The Politics of Whaling” that focuses on the opinions of different governments.  I guess after reading about the two side of the “Whale Wars” I have to decide how to approach the white paper.  I can make my arguments for the IWC or the ICRW convincing them to take out the “research loophole” in the convention.  Or I could also argue my points and have society be the decision maker.  Is Japan ethical in their whaling efforts while keeping in mind that they are technically following international customary law?

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Discussion

21 thoughts on “Whale Wars

  1. I’m glad you posted about this show Lauren. I was pretty obsessed for awhile with these guys for curiosity’s sake. I wasn’t sure why these guys were taking their time to volunteer and do this. After reading your post, I have found some further clarity regarding the show and larger issue at hand. This brings up many ethical surroundings. From what I know, we have tons of fishing regulations that would never permit such activities and its a very difficult topic. Should the US intervene and take a stance on these “research” practices? I’m anxious to see what further research you are able to dig up regarding the masters of the sea.

    Posted by Patrick | March 27, 2012, 9:41 pm
  2. How do the Sea Shepherds disrupt the Japanese whaling fleets? I love Animal Planet but I am more of a River Monsters fan so I am not familiar with the show you referenced.

    Posted by JOEY MARTIN | March 27, 2012, 10:00 pm
    • The Sea Shepherd group usually has a couple boats and they spend the first couple days/weeks traveling to the Antarctic waters when whaling season begins and spread out to search for the Japanese fleet. Once they find the fleet, they try to get close enough to throw chemicals at the boat (they spoil the whale meat so it can’t be sold) they also try to break the propeller of the boat by dropping lines around the Japanese boat. The Japanese fleet has harpoon boats that spread out to kill the whales and then the sort of “mother ship/factory ship” where they deliver their kills for be processed and stored. So they actually try to block the harpoon boats from accessing the factory boat. It’s actually extremely tedious…but they basically harass the Japanese fleet to the point where they are unable to make kills or travel to find a pod of whales. So basically another issue with this is the Japanese government wants the Sea Shepherd group arrested. Haha I’ve seen commercials for River Monsters…pretty interesting/odd/ugly creatures they find hah.

      Posted by Lauren Daley | March 27, 2012, 10:56 pm
      • The other thing that I think is very interesting regarding “Whale Wars” is the difficulty in actually enforcing international laws. Japan says that everything is cool, Australia says that they are breaking laws (that they can’t actually enforce) and the Sea Shepherds see themselves as activists. You could also make the argument that the Sea Shepherds are vigilantes, terrorists, or even pirates.

        I think that this is a fascinating topic that could be argued in any number of directions. I also wanted to turn your attention to an article from the Terrorism and Political Violence journal that could be of interest to you as well (compliments of Wikipedia): “Vigilantes on the High Seas?: The Sea Shepherds and Political Violence”.

        Posted by Brody Selleck | March 28, 2012, 9:59 am
      • Hey Brody, thanks for the additional ideas and article! I really like the idea of arguing whether or not the Sea Shepherd’s actions are ethical from the standpoint of society or governments. I guess society would be more interesting. There are definitely people that think the show is ridiculous and the Sea Shepherd guys are crazy haha.

        Posted by Lauren Daley | March 28, 2012, 10:53 am
      • The real issue is “deliberately putting lives at risk” by intentionally trying to disable a sea vessel in the bearing sea. That is “ECO” terrorism”!!!! The ocean is an unforgiving place when a ship has lost a propeller, and made even more dangerous when in the remote places that the Sea Shepard is operating at. Putting young people on a craft that have little or no “sea experience” with their passion for “saving whales, is pathetic. The kids get sick for the first 2 weeks, and frankly, when the first kid get’s killed at sea because they were trying to disable a whaling boat, will be a sad day and it is going to happen.

        Green Peace will not even assist the sea Shepard society in any way and their goal is the same. Stop whaling. While I am not a huge fan of Green peace, they are doing it right by video taping and documenting waling activities, placing no one at harms way.

        Posted by tim | April 7, 2012, 10:42 am
    • You can see Whale Wars episodes “On Demand” via your cable company. Also, there is a new series coming up on Animal Planet, “Whale Wars – Viking Shores” wherein Sea Shepherd volunteers deter the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faeroes Islands. You can view the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IihgXzZxI0I&feature=share

      Personally, I don’t think it’s adequate to summarize the mission of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society merely by their Antarctica campaigns. They do so much more. You will find that SSCS is consulted by many organisations and even called upon by small poor governments for aid. You will see SSCS in many documentaries such as: The Cove (2010 Academy Award winner for best doc), Sharkwater, Pirate for the Sea, and more. You will also see Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist on April 22nd on cable channels in the USA. See Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7C0TYFSVmY

      Also (from wikipedia)
      Sea Shepherd has received financial contributions from celebrities and businessmen such as entrepreneur Steve Wynn, television personality Bob Barker, and John Paul DeJoria, as well as other celebrities.[7][7][17] Martin Sheen, Darryl Hannah, and Richard Dean Anderson have joined the group during protests. Actors including Edward Norton, Pierce Brosnan, Christian Bale, and Emily Deschanel have supported the group through contributions,[11] while William Shatner has also been mentioned as supporting the group.[51] In 2007, actor Heath Ledger conceived and directed a music video of the Modest Mouse song “King Rat”, intended to raise awareness of the whale hunts taking place each year off the coast of his native Australia. Although Ledger died before the video could be completed, others finished it in his honor and debuted the video online in August 2009. Proceeds from iTunes sales of the video in its first month of release were donated to Sea Shepherd.[52][53]
      From the music industry, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Leona Lewis, Rick Rubin, and the groups The Red Paintings and Gojira have financially supported Sea Shepherd.[17] In 2009, professional surfer Kelly Slater joined a Quiksilver Australia/Sea Shepherd partnership featuring a fund-raising clothing line, including board shorts designed by Slater.[54]

      There is so much more. This does not even scratch the surface. Sea Shepherd isn’t merely about a worthy cause. They are about saving the world.

      Posted by Holise E Cleveland III | April 13, 2012, 9:36 pm
  3. Lauren – I found the last line of your post very relevant to many class discussions we have had: “Is Japan ethical in their whaling efforts while keeping in mind that they are technically following international customary law?” I think it was the first day of class where we brainstormed the differences between law and ethics, and found that they were far from being the same thing. I think this discrepency is an important one to establish when you are arguing the ethics behind the whaling situation in Japan.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | March 28, 2012, 1:28 pm
    • I think it is interesting, you are studying this in class? I think a question to expand on would be is the international customary law aligned with keeping the planet and ecosystems stable and healthy. Also I think another good question would be, how effective is Japans research on whaling? How long do they wait before they cut up the whale? Why isn’t Australia doing anything about the fact that Japan has killed whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary? How important are whales to the ecosystem and what danger are they in? Do the whales need to be killed in order to conduct this research?

      Posted by Frances | April 10, 2012, 12:06 am
      • Also, to be fair, to examine S.S.C.S. and their stance on the environment since this is about environmental research. Have Sea Shepherds, while some tactics may be controversial; ever they ever harmed anyone, attempted to harm anyone or broken the law? The answer is no, they are simply doing their best to conserve and protect the ecosystem which is on the brink of shattering if you look at the facts for our children.

        Posted by Frances | April 10, 2012, 12:19 am
  4. I am a avid fisherman, I believe the ocean / seas are mother natures most precious resource. It has to be protected!! Lets go back to the debate. “Does the means justify the end?” “Does the end justify the means?”

    3 type of travel. land / sea / air. Each one carries a higher level of safety systems and back up systems. The sea is un yielding. I have been in a powerless vessel 40 miles of the coast of California, in decent weather. When the boat turns aimlessly side to side, swells rock you. It wasn’t fun. Boats typically capsize in poor or sever weather conditions.

    Lets think forward and consider all the elements. What if a Japanese whaling boat, was disabled by the sea Shepard. (clearly their objective) (the prop cable deployment) And boats don’t carry a “spare prop” …..Then the weather turns worse than it normally is, and is pretty bad on a good day, the boat capsizes, the sea Shepard can not save any or all of the Japanese sailors. Or don’t attempt to. Then what. What if the Japanese Whaling boats begin to Arm themselves? Maritime law provides you can use any measure to protect your craft and life in international waters. Remember this is not the U S or any country, this is the high seas. The whaling boats are being targeted and the captain is responsible for all “souls” on board. My feeling there will be a death, that ends the show at some point. As human life trumps all

    Posted by tim | April 7, 2012, 11:05 am
  5. Lastly (sorry I am passionate about this)

    Legal waling occurs in the U S every year!!!!! Inuits, native Alaskans have a yeary whale hunt to feed their village, use the blubber for fuel oil, harvest every bit, making art out of the teeth, bones, and use the hydes.

    Japan my be doing the same thing. why are they not afforded the same consideration as (Americans) do??? They may be researching how to better “grow” the whale population so they can continue to whale.

    Lets open our eyes to all the possibilities and then judge how in my opinion, how irresponsible the captin is of the Sea Shepard

    Posted by tim | April 7, 2012, 11:40 am
  6. According to scientists, the Oceans may be depleted of sea life by the year 2050. The oceans provide almost seventy percent of our oxygen. Such damage to our planetary ecosystem will be catastrophic. Japanese whaling is merely one battle that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) wages in an effort to save Earth’s inhabitants. The planet can and will survive without humans. It will heal itself. We, however, cannot survive without Earth. What SSCS is attempting to do is save you and your children. They do not watch, waving protest signs, as the whalers kill whales in a whale sanctuary. They use direct intervention.

    Don’t take my word for it. Do the research for yourself. Feel free to start here…
    Study: 90% of the ocean’s edible species may be gone by 2048 – USA TODAY

    World’s Fish Supply Running Out, Researchers Warn – Washington Post

    Posted by Holise E Cleveland III | April 9, 2012, 10:59 pm
  7. Hi I am glad you are interested, just remember when reading Japans side you are reading the words of a corrupt organization. On the other hand Sea Shepherd has everyones best interest in mind since they want to protect and conserve the entire planet and do the right thing. I have lots of evidence to support this however I figured I would leave it simple. Thank you.

    Posted by Frances | April 10, 2012, 12:00 am
  8. People don’t understand how in serious trouble our home is, and if the oceans die, we die.
    Overfishing and whaling is infact raping our oceans. Sscs is NOT only targeting the japanese whalers, they are protecting oceans all over the world, infact they are the only organisation doing something, making a change.

    Posted by Angela Rosendahl | April 14, 2012, 4:59 am
  9. Hello everyone, I am proudly part of Sea Shepherd as an on shore and off shore volunteer. My husband has been down to Antarctica twice already (Waltzin Matilda and No Compromise Operation) and I have been working in Galapagos as part of a anti shark finning education program and also I have been to Japan (Taiji) as a Cove Guardian with Sea Shepherd´s Annual Dolphin Defense Campaign called Infinite Patience.
    First of all I have to say that Sea Shepherd not only fights the Whale Wars but also goes to the Faroe Islands (to fight the pilot whale slaughter), to the Mediterranean (to fight the illegal Bluefin Tuna fishing), to Namibia (to fight the slaugher of baby seals). Sea Shepherd also has offices all over the world.
    I also want to make sure you know that the battle to save whales in the Southern Ocean has been taking place for decades and the show doesnt really show all what has happened there. I suggest you look for the movie or documentary The Edge of the World.
    There is also an error when you say that the japanese whalers take a lot of samples and the leftovers are sold later on. Actually the whale is butchered within minutes after being murdered. The harpoon used explotes inside the whale and it can take up to an hour for that whale to die. Why do they need to kill over a 1000 whales a years for their so called “research program”, just to come up with a paper saying most of the whales killed where females and that a big percent were pregnant??? what kind of research is that???
    Then here some reading to make sure you have facts of the whale meat stock in Japan

    Posted by Cristina | April 14, 2012, 3:03 pm
  10. I am only going to post things you can read and then you can make you own mind, but not I suggest you do some more reading.
    http://www.economywatch.com/in-the-news/japan-admits-using-29-million-from-disaster-hunt-for-whaling-hunt.09-12.html
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/japans-whale-meat-stock-rises/story-fn6s850w-1225982701746

    And as far as people calling as Eco Terrorists I always say ” last time I checked, terrorist were bombing buildings, kidnapping and killing people……….. us? we are safing lives, Eco Terrorists should be called those poachers killing our oceans” and as Paul Says….prove it or SHUT UP!!!

    Posted by Cristina | April 14, 2012, 3:17 pm
  11. Hello Lauren, my name is Sara Keltie and I was a crew member on the Bob Barker for 2 years and have recently left to undertake my Masters degree in Antarctic Science. It was Sea Shepherd that nurtured this love of that spectacular part of the world more so than any scientists or professor ever did.
    I would like to first point out a few incorrect statements people have made, which is understandable to a degree given that they have never been on a Sea Shepherd campaign and are merely speculating. First of all I would like to point ou that most of the information people ore referencing is from a tv show! We have no power over how it is edited or put together and people have to understand that Animal Planet is going for drama and danger and may sometimes embellish!
    Secondly we do not attempt to ‘break propellers’ we do attempt to ‘prop foul’ which means entangling the prop. A few important notes here: 1. We can only launch or boats when we know we are in calm seas for a significant amount of time which means if we are successful the harpoon ships will be immobilised temporarily in calm water, we do not therefore ‘endanger lives’ we merely slow the ships down. Like us the whaling fleet has a crew of divers on board who can deal with such an issue (entangled prop) But the point is it gives us time to get out of their radar range. For those who yell ‘terrorist’ at this may want to see the footage on youtube showing the fleet doing the exact same thing back to us this year with the exception of it involves two ships, at night, with a spotlight beaming into the bridge!
    Prop fouling is rarely successful in entangling the props but in trying to avoid the lines it can slow them down enough to let us get away, like setting up an intricate array of traffic cones.
    Prop fouling is usually utilized when we are being tailed, they do this to relay our coordinates to the factory ship the Nisshun Maru which is our main target. If we can block their slipway then they cant transfer whales to process the meat quick enough to package so they stop. Everytime we find them we simply sail behind them and seriously all whaling comes to an end. The important thing to note here is that scientific analysis could still be run after a significant amount of time, particularly on bone matter, but its the processing of the meat that is their main goal.
    Secondly as a scientist myself, and many of my fellow students and professors, are insulted that anyone could ever fall for this guise of ‘research.’ What do you think would happen if I went into my supervisor and asked to kill even one whale for my masters project? The ethical committee would kick me right out!
    Secondly the question of why doesnt Australia do anything? Same thing many countries dont stand up to others, political power play. Does Australia have the authority to intercept this whaling fleet? Yes, according to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctury, Moratorium on Commercial Whaling, Antarctic Treaty and the 2007 Australian Federal Court Order banning all Japanese whaling fleets from our waters (the majority of the waters in which the hunt is conducted is considered under Australian jurisdiction.)
    Japan now claims it does not respect or give any authority to the Antarctic Treaty, very few people know however that they were amongst the first signatries of the treaty in 1959!
    A question was raised why do they not permit Japanese commercial whaling the same allowences as Inuit whaling? First of all there is a large difference between commercial and sustainance whaling. Japan is also whaling for commercial purposes, now illegal, within an internationally recognised whale sanctuary (last year the vice president of Japan did go on record as stating the goal of this continued hunt is to continue pressure until commercial whaling can recommence. And it is not a cultural tradition. For a culture that has existed since 14,000 BC can you really claim an industry that is roughly 100 years old a cultural tradition?
    A few small notes I would like to make from the humanitarian point of view:
    First of all whale meat is not a commonly eaten food in Japan. One Japanese study found that a mere 3% of the population had ever tried it. Yet this industry gets millions of dollars in tax subsidies a year? Including an extra 27million last year when Japan suffered a horrible tragedy and infrustructure and medical care was more important than ever. Even if you dont care about the whales you cant agree that is right?
    Secondly the term ‘Eco Terrorist’ really irks me for one good reason: it completely demeans what terrorism is. People throw that word around so often now days it has almost lost its power. Yet a terrorist act is something serious, it involves the loss of human lives! I really dont think the families of Beslan would appreciate the people who held them hostage with their children, forced them to play mind games (ie asking parents which of their children they wanted to save because they could only save one) and then blowing up the school with children inside… being compared to 100 people on three vessels trying to nonviolently stop lives being taken away. Maybe they could relate to the mother whales, after all 98 of those killed this year were pregnant females, and 61 were too young to have even reached breeding age yet.
    So the problems for me, being a conservationist, scientist and concerned global citizen is that this is a completely unsustainable hunt, killing ‘protected’ whales in an internationally declared sanctuary, wasting the tax dollars of a country that not only dont want the product but also need their money better spent elsewhere. Whaling is no longer a mere whale-hugging issue, it encompasses every issue from animal rights to life, environmental protection, and human welfare.
    And lastly Sea Shepherd has never ever been convicted of a crime or hurt anyone on any campaign, what is saddening though is that 4 whalers have died in recent years: I believe 2 in a fire, I committed suicide and one was crushed by the conveyor belt, yet this incompetence on behalf of the whlaing fleet is completely ignored. If we ever hurt anyone I can assure you we know the loss to our support would be massive as it goes against everything we believe in and whoever was responsible would be lynched, and feel absolutely sick about it! You have my word on that!
    So many people love throwing around words like ‘law’ and ‘law of the sea’, I am doing my Masters on it and I am only just starting to wrap my head around all the intricacies. No one seems to stop and genuinely question laws; who do they benefit, who do they hurt, what is there to gain.
    My opinion of the current day, on so many issues that face us, is ismply this: we have gotten to a point wherein we let our laws dictate our ethics, when it should be our ethics that dictate our laws.

    Posted by onegirlstilllearning | April 14, 2012, 8:28 pm
  12. Well Lauren, I think Sara has just done a brilliant job of answering your question regarding which stand point to take.

    The fact that Sea Shepherd has let Animal Planet film every aspect of their campaigns for the last 5 years (where the whalers have repeatly denied all filming requests) says a lot about the organisations credibility. As Holise pointed out, our oceans are in serious trouble. The dedicated crewmembers of Sea Shepherd are doing exactly what any concerned and RATIONAL human beings would be doing under these circumstances. People shouldn’t just be watching Whale Wars on TV, they need to get off their couches and become part of the battle for the survival of our planet. The fisheries of the world are set to collapse in my life time. I don’t know about you, but it scares the shit out of me. We’re currently living in a time of run away climate change, massive environmental degradation, the depletion of our national resources, plus we’re seeing the biggest mass extinction event in human history. No wonder these ‘kids’ are taking to the seas and risking their lives.

    Without life in the oceans, there are no whalers, no Sea Shepherds, no human race.

    What does a logical person do in these times? Continue to kill off the remaining great species of this world or fight to protect them for now and for the future generations?

    Posted by Michael B | April 15, 2012, 4:16 am
  13. Humanity had one of its high moments, a moment of collective recognition of an issue that must be corrected, when it recognized the barbarism of tuna fishing which ensnared, drowned and even crushed live dolphins in the nets of commercial fishing fleets. There was an outcry, videos were distributed, even before there was anything like the capability of a world internet, and corrective measures swiftly taken. The “dolphin safe” label was born and enthusiastically supported by industry, because people were audibly horrified.

    Since then, we’ve become complacent about the suffering of animals, and I’m not certain why. Somehow we must reach the numbers of people who were reached, even without the internet or cable TV, but just through the nightly news and TV specials like Jacques Cousteau’s.

    I thank the author, those who participate on the ground with environmental groups, including the essential work of Sea Shepherd, Save Misty the Dolphin, ECO, Save Japan Dolphins, Blue Voice.org, Free the Atlanta 11, and all those who support the release of orcas, belugas and dolphins from amusement centers and swim-with programs as well as those who advocate for ending the harm to those animals and others by the use of noise generating devices in the ocean, such as the Navy’s sonar and the oil industry’s seismic explosions.

    Thank you all. We will never stop until the atrocities of capture, slaughter and damage of ocean life is ended.

    Posted by Mo Brock | April 16, 2012, 7:49 am

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