Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Slaughter Has Ended...

It's that time of year again. The time of year where the dolphins of Japan can swim peacefully by Taiji without any threat of being corralled into the cove and brutally slaughtered. Just a few short days ago, the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan came to an end after 6 months of killings. It is during this time that we as people need to speak out against the horrors that go into this slaughter every year. There is so much that needs to be looked at. On one level you have the whole cultural issue. The Japanese fisheries basically claim that the slaughter is part of the Japanese culture. The problem with that claim is as follows. Until the documentary, The Cove, was released, the vast majority of the Japanese population had no idea where their dolphin meat was coming from let alone how it was being obtained. For something to be a part of a people's culture, one would think that the people of that culture would have some kind of idea about the killing that is apparently such a major part of that culture. Facts are facts. Dolphin meat does not sell well at all, so with that being said, how big a part of the Japanese culture is eating dolphin meat? Apparently not that big, otherwise dolphin meat would not have to be labeled as other meats to get people to buy it.

If I learned anything from this year's slaughter it's this. The annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji has sadly a lot to do with dolphins in captivity. The fact is, as mentioned earlier, dolphin meat just is not that productive when it comes to making money. It does not sell. So what does sell then? The live dolphin sells. One dolphin can sell for several thousand dollars. The dolphins that are the best fit for captivity are selected and sold to dolphinariums around the world for a very, very pretty penny. That alone, to me is enough for the Japanese to want to continue this slaughter. It makes them an insane amount of money from selling dolphins into captivity. If no dolphinariums purchased the dolphins, then this slaughter wouldn't happen because the business would simply not be there and the fisherman would have to rely solely on sales from dolphin meat. Those sales would never be able to keep the business afloat.

So why don't the Japanese just let the dolphins not selected go free? The answer to that is quite simple and kind of terrible really. There is still some kind of profit to be made from a dead dolphin. It's nowhere near as big as a live dolphin, but it is profit nonetheless. Setting the dolphins free does nothing for the Japanese, but potentially cost them some money in gas used while trying to catch them. The bottom line with this is that the life of a dolphin is realistically worth less to these people than the amount of money spent trying to catch them, even if they manage to sell off some of that dolphins family members for a major profit. It is a sad, sad truth, but it is the truth nonetheless.

Personally, I call upon some of the world's largest aquariums and dolphinariums, yes I'm looking at you Sea World, to step up and try to do something about this. The amount of influence these places have on smaller facilities is massive! I am a realist. I know that there is always going to be a dolphin trade from the wild to captivity. As much as I may not like it, I know there is a very, very good chance that it will not end as the popularity of these animals continues to increase. What can end though is the support of these businesses that find it 100% acceptable to slaughter each and every dolphin that they cannot sell into captivity. Dolphins are incredibly intelligent. They know when something major, like being brought into captivity, has happened to them. They know when they see a family member getting a spear shoved into their spine. Enough emotional damage is done to an entire pod of dolphins when members are removed that the should not be forced to then swim through the blood of their loved ones as well before their time to die arrives. Again, I ask of Sea World and other large aquariums/dolphinariums to step up and at the very least end the support of these terrible slaughters.  

This in all likely hood will be my final blog of Operation Sadistic Truths in regards to the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. I will spare you from the horrific pictures of the killings again until my final blog of this campaign. Thank you all for reading these dolphin blogs. It is my first time putting my opinions out there on this slaughter and I hope that you were able to take something away from it all. Even if it just becoming aware of the slaughter itself. Again, thank you all for reading. Operation Sadistic Truths does not end here though. I will continue this campaign until March 12th.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chaos Grips the Southern Ocean

All right so there is a ton of new coming out of the Southern Ocean over the past 24 hours. I am going to describe the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's side of the story as there are actual photographs that back up their claims. The first part of this blog will be a summary as to what has happened in the Southern Ocean and the second part of this blog will be my personal feeling on the matter.

For those of you who are unaware, there is a war going on in the Southern Ocean between the Japanese Whaling Fleet and Sea Shepherd Australia. For the past few weeks, the conservation vessels have prevented the whalers from illegally killing whales in a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean that is controlled by Australia. Along with the whaling fleet is the fuel tanker Sun Laurel. This ship is carrying heavy fuel oil, which needless to say, if spilled would be catastrophic to the surrounding area. Several days ago, the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru #1 and Japanese Security Vessel were illegally fueled by the Sun Laurel. The reason the fueling was illegal was twofold. First, it is unlawful to enter the Antarctic Treaty Zone with heavy fuel oil, something that the Sun Laurel has on board and in large quantities. Second, it is illegal to transfer heavy fuel oil in the Antarctic Treaty Zone. For an idea as to where that treaty zone is, here's a map

The area in which to focus is the area controlled by Australia. For reference, the Antarctic Treaty Zone starts at 60 degrees South and extends through Antarctica. This means that the Sun Laurel (below) was below this line when it fueled the Yushin Maru #1 (the blue vessel in the picture being fueled) and Shonan Maru #2.

Fast forward to yesterday. The Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon and the Sun Laurel were joined by the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Yushin Maru #1,2, and 3, and the Nisshin Maru. Under the cover of darkness, the Nisshin Maru led the Sun Laurel into a thick ice pack in an attempt to lose the Sea Shepherd Vessels and refuel the whaling ships. The Sun Laurel is not designed for ice and could have easily sank if it had hit any thick ice. At this time, the Sun Laurel was notified by Sea Shepherd that they would not allow any illegal fueling to take place and told the Sun Laurel that they can refuel the whaling fleet above 60 degrees South. At the time, the ships were roughly 360 miles south of that line. The captain of the Nisshin Maru wanted none of that and soon after the mess began.

At 10:20am, the Shonan Maru #2 arrived on the scene. For a quick little introduction on this ship, this is the ship that earlier in the year entered Australian waters despite the Australian Government demanding they not. This is also the ship that made headlines a few years ago after it had cut the hull off the Sea Shepherd Speed Vessel Ady Gil, leading to it's eventual sinking. As the Shonan Maru #2 arrived, the three harpoon vessels began to circle the Sea Shepherd vessels, blasting their crews with high powered water cannons at the crew of the Sea Shepherd ships. Then the Nisshin Maru itself began to close in on the Steve Irwin which was alongside the Sun Laurel.

In this photo: The three harpoon ships and the Shonan Maru #2 (white ship) close on the Sea Shepherd vessels.

In this photo: The harpoon ships attacking Sea Shepherd vessels with high powered water cannons. The Bob Barker is the ship farthest back with one harpoon ship right next to it and the Steve Irwin is alongside the Sun Laurel with the Nisshin Maru a bit further back.

10:50am; The Nisshin Maru closed in on the Steve Irwin and started to get dangerously close to hitting the Steve Irwin and the Sun Laurel. Soon after chaos erupted.

12:20pm: The Nisshin Maru begins it's assault. The Bosun of the Sun Laurel warned the Nisshin Maru to stop because they were getting too close to the tanker. The Nisshin Maru did not stop, rather continued to bear down on the Steve Irwin (below) 
At 12:56, The Nisshin Maru would ram the Steve Irwin twice, damaging it's helicopter deck and port side. As the Steve Irwin, a ship literally 10 times smaller than the Nisshin Maru, tried to get away, the Bob Barker took it's place.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru rams the Steve Irwin's helicopter deck on the port side of the ship.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru rams the Steve Irwin a second time, pushing it towards the fuel tanker, Sun Laurel.

In this photo: The Steve Irwin running from the Nisshin Maru while the Bob Barker takes it's position alongside the Sun Laurel.

While the Nisshin Maru was ramming the Steve Irwin and while the Bob Barker was moving in, the Japanese crew threw concussion grenades at the crew of the Sea Shepherd ships along with the use of high powered water cannons. The whalers than turned their attention to the main exhaust pipe of the Bob Barker and tried to flood it with their water cannons. During the chaos, co-campaign leader Bob Brown ordered that the Sea Shepherd ships not retaliate to the aggression of the Nisshin Maru. An order that the three conservation ships would obey as no violence was directed towards the whaling fleet during this fight.

Next the Nisshin Maru would do the unthinkable. The Nisshin Maru in an attempt at ramming the Bob Barker, ran right into the port side of the Sun Laurel destroying it's life rafts.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru just before ramming the Sun Laurel.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru rams the Sun Laurel destroying their life boats.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru rams the Sun Laurel again.

After ramming their own ship you would think the Nisshin Maru would stop right? Not by a long shot. The Nisshin Maru would then force it's way between the Bob Barker and Sun Laurel, hitting both ships at once. The Bob Barker was virtually ran over by the Nisshin Maru as these pictures will show.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru starting to ram both the Sun Laurel and Bob Barker.

In this photo: The Nisshin Maru's massive bow towers over the bridge of the Bob Barker breaking the Bob Barker's running lights and radar systems. The Shonan Maru #2 stood by.

While the Nisshin Maru continued to push onto the Bob Barker, the conservation ship began to roll and take on water causing the ships power to go off. Captain Peter Hammarstedt managed to send out a mayday call. Upon hearing this call, the Nisshin Maru backed off. The Bob Barker would sit dead in the water for about a half hour while the crew fixed the breach and got power back to the ship.

Earlier, the Sam Simon also had to deal with the Nisshin Maru as they too were rammed and actually ordered to leave Australian waters under the authority of the Government of Japan. That means an Australian vessel was ordered out of Australian waters by a Japanese whaling ship. The aftermath of this incident becomes very interesting as things continue to develop.

During the fight, the Bob Barker had deployed their Zodiacs where some of these pictures were taken from. During the collisions a bottle was apparently tossed to one of the boats from the Sun Laurel. Inside the bottle was a note that read  “To Research ship, Please: ‘May Day’ ‘Help’ All crew did not know to this Antarctic trip. So all crew don’t like to supply this fishing vessels. We cannot use telephone so we cannot speak to IMO. Please you as soon as possible take action. Thank you.”

The captain of the Sun Laurel also mentioned in the note that the Sun Laurel, under Japanese order, was not allowed to use their phones from January 20th- February 28th. Also, the majority of the crew on the Sun Laurel had no idea that they were going to Antarctica and did not support the whaling fleet at all. After all of the ramming had taken place the crew of the Bob Barker tossed some t-shirts to the crew of the Sun Laurel who put them on and gave the Bob Barker a thumbs up. 

So does the ICR have to say about this? Due to it being too dangerous to refuel with Sea Shepherd around, the ICR has called off the whale hunt for now until the ships can refuel. Chances are this means North of the 60 degree mark. They also blame the Bob Barker for ramming the Nisshin Maru which judging from this picture, I personally cannot see how that is even possible.  
The ICR claims that this is the Bob Barker rammig the Nisshin Maru.

So what is going on right now? Latest news has the damaged Sun Laurel being escorted by the Sam Simon heading North. The Nisshin Maru following the mayday call by the Bob Barker has fled to the West with the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker on its tail. The three Yushins and the Shonan Maru #2 have all take off in different directions. At this point it is unknown if the Sun Laurel intends to still refuel the fleet, but with her going one way and the fleet going in all different directions it is thought they may have had enough and are going home. As the sun rises over the Southern Ocean, more news will probably come out of the Southern Ocean as to what the whaling fleet is going to do.

So that is what happened while many of us here in the United States slept. My opinion on the matter is very simple. This was not even about whaling. This was about upholing the law and not allowing large ships to refuel using heavy fuel oil south of 60 degrees. The actions displayed by the captain of the Nisshin Maru should by all rights land him in jail, but much like the captain of the Shonan Maru #2 who got away with cutting the bow off the Ady Gil, I don't expect any punishment to befall him. As far as the Sun Laurel is concerned, I don't know what to think at this point. The Japanese have tried many sneaky things to try and secure their whaling operations. It wouldn't surprise me if they hired the Sun Laurel and tried to keep it hush hush. The Sun Laurel had no business being in an ice pack. I doubt that the Sun Laurel's captain was so dead set on fueling below 60 degrees. I'm sure there had to be some kind of radio communication between the Sun Laurel and Nisshin Maru involving that issue. The Sun Laurel is now heading North with the Sam Simon. I hope the crew of all the rammed ships are okay and really hope nothing goes wrong with the Sun Laurel on it's trip home. Their life rafts were destroyed by the Nisshin Maru so I am happy to see that the Sam Simon is escorting them. I'm sure though that the Sam Simon is also escorting the Sun Laurel to prevent any illegal fueling still as well.

All in all, this was a really scary event that should never have happened. The whaling fleet should never had tried to fuel below 60 degrees south. In doing so, they showed just how little regard they have for the law and in that case for the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. If something had happened during the refueling of any of those ships and an oil spill occurred... I don't even want to think about it. It's not like Africa or the Gulf of Mexico where people are going to rush out and clean the oil. Chances are that stuff would literally destroy the ecosystem. Sea Shepherd at is now doing the job that the Australian navy should be doing. They are down there to prevent illegal commercial whaling. Now they also had to stop illegal fueling below 60 degrees. It is not their job to do any of this. The Government of Australia needs to say following this even that enough is enough and send a boat down there and get control of the situation. This season has seen several boats already in distress. The Yushin Maru #1 was ditched earlier by the rest of the whaling fleet when it was virtually out of fuel. The Sun Laurel and Bob Barker have taken a good amount of damage. Someone is going to wind up getting killed down there and it is not going to be one of the whalers.

Ship to ship, the whaling fleet is much larger. As you could see in the pictures the Nisshin Maru is a fortress compared to even the Sun Laurel which is by no means small. It is far too dangerous to allow this insanity to continue in Australian waters. Now it's not just whale lives that are at stake, it's human lives too. Some good has come out of this mess though. That is the ICR putting all whaling operations on hold. The fleet needs to refuel. Whether it is from the Sun Laurel or someone else, the fleet has to refuel. If the Sun Laurel does decide to refuel the fleet above 60 degrees, it will take several days for the fleet to get there, refuel, and return to the whale sanctuary. There are just 17 days left in the season. This could possibly be the end of the season, but until anything becomes official I am holding my breath. 

Thank you Sea Shepherd for doing the work that the Australian Government should be doing.

All photo credit goes to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Southern Ocean Has Turned Red...

Earlier today, the Yushin Maru #2 sent an explosive harpoon into the back of a large minke whale. The whale fought for a long time before dying. The Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker was positioned a half mile behind the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru at the time the whale was harpooned. It is believed that this is the first whale to be killed this season. The Bob Barker prevented the transfer of the whale from the harpoon ship to the factory ship for several hours before the whale was eventually transferred. During the fight, the Nisshin Maru and Yushin Maru #2 deployed prop fouling equipment in an attempt to disable the Bob Barker. The crew of the Bob Barker responded by deploying two small boats to cut the prop fouling lines. The Bob Barker positioned itself for several hours between the harpoon and factory ships before the harpoon vessel was able to make the transfer after nearly ramming the Bob Barker. This video is from a crewman of the Nisshin Maru of the Bob Barker preventing the transfer of the whale. This lasted for 9 hours. 

The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin has met up with the Bob Barker short time ago to help the Bob Barker shut down whaling operations. The Yushin Maru #1 is still missing in action some hundreds of miles away from the action and could possibly be sitting out of fuel somewhere in the Southern Ocean. The Japanese Security ship Shonan Maru #2 has also not been seen, there is a possibility that they are trying to help the distressed Yushin Maru #1. The Yushin Maru #3 is still following the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot continues to speed towards the battlefield. Elsewhere, the Sam Simon continues to tail the Japanese whaling fleet's supply vessel, the Sun Laurel.

So here's my take on what's going on in the Southern Ocean. The Japanese whaling fleet has decided that the lives of their fellow countrymen are not worth the amount of money a dead whale would make for them. They have proven this to me by abandoning the Yushin Maru #1 in it's hour of need. The South Korean ship, the Sun Laurel is in a terrible position by having the Sam Simon on their tail. The two ships have passed below 60 degrees South Antarctic Treaty line. It is illegal for any refueling to take place below that line. The Sun Laurel has been informed of this. If they attempt to refuel the Japanese vessels, Australia should a ship to  arrest each and every member of the crew of the Sun Laurel. Australia has failed to send a ship to the Southern Ocean so far, but perhaps this could encourage them to do so. 

Sea Shepherd is certainly winning this season. Japan has cried foul on Sea Shepherd for breaching an injunction that states no Sea Shepherd vessel can approach a whaling ship. Sea Shepherd's response is that Sea Shepherd USA is not in the Southern Ocean. The entire campaign is being headed by Sea Shepherd Australia. No Sea Shepherd ship in the Southern Ocean is registered in the United States. So this campaign has nothing to do with the US and the US courts should have no say in what goes on in Australian waters. I fully agree with that belief. 

Lastly, the I feel that the economics of whaling still make no sense. At this point the Japanese people are being forced to pay for the losses sustained by the whaling fleet. In 2011, 8.9 million dollars in tax payer money went to keeping the whaling fleet afloat. Despite large stockpiles of whale meat, Japan continues the hunt for a country in which roughly 10% of the population actually supports whaling. Nearly the entire world wants to see this insanity end. Sea Shepherd wants it to end. The ICR didn't want to go to the Southern Ocean this year. Only the Japanese Government wants this insanity to continue for no real reason. So much money has been lost already by the fleet and this year is probably going to be their biggest loss yet. It makes no sense as to why this hunt continues. All we can do is make sure to spread the word about this frankly stupid and pointless slaughter. Sea Shepherd is taking direct action which is totally admirable and amazing, but for us who are stuck on land, the best thing we can do is continue to educate, educate, educate! For those of you who are unaware of exactly what is going on, here are two pictures and two videos of the annual Japanese whale hunt in the Southern Ocean.
In this video, a whale is harpooned and shot multiple times. This happens every time a whale is killed.
In this video, the Shonan Maru #2 tears the bow off the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil while it sat dead in the water leading to the eventual sinking of the Ady Gil.

The Yushin Maru with a harpooned whale

False claims of collecting tissue samples. No research from the Southern Ocean has come from Japan in several years.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Abandonment in the Southern Ocean

It appears that the Japanese Whaling Fleet is now involved in a situation in which they are not even willing to help themselves. The Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon has successfully blockaded the whaling fleet's supply vessel, the Sun Laurel. There is a chance that the Sun Laurel will lead the Sam Simon right to the Nisshin Maru, which will need to be refueled at some point. The Sea Shepherd vessel Brigitte Bardot is returning to action after returning to Australia to refuel and resupply. This allowed the Yushin Maru #3 to rejoin the fleet. The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin has been tailed by the Yushin Maru, which is running dangerously low on fuel. The whalers attempted to swap the Yushin Maru and the Yushin Maru #3 so the Yushin Maru could refuel, but the Steve Irwin turned on them and chased them for 150 miles. During that time, the Yushin Maru was unable to reach it's top speed. The Yushin Maru is unable to recover the ground lost between itself and the Nisshan Maru and now finds itself in an emergency situation. The Nisshin Maru is still believed to be on the run from another Sea Shepherd vessel, the Bob Barker. The Yushin Maru #3 has left it's sister ship to pursue the Steve Irwin. This means that the Yushin Maru has been abandoned by the rest of the whaling fleet. Rather than ensure the safety of the crew of the Yushin Maru, the entire whaling fleet has abandoned them. The Southern Ocean is an incredibly hostile environment, but it seems the whalers don't really care for it as they have left one of their own in a terrible, terrible situation. The desperation of these whalers is more evident now more than ever. With the Sun Laurel being pressured to enter Australia Antarctic Territory by the Japanese Government, the coming few days could prove to be very interesting.

The whaling fleet is running low on fuel, the Sam Simon is right on the tail of the Sun Laurel and will probably try to prevent any form of fueling from occurring in the Southern Ocean. The Brigitte Bardot is speeding back to the Southern Ocean. The Bob Barker is pursuing the Nisshin Maru with the assistance of airborne drones. The Steve Irwin continues to occupy the Yushin Maru #3. There has been no sign of the Shonan Maru #2 since it nearly caused an international crisis by entering Australian waters. The Yushin Maru #2 is believed to be on the run with the Nisshin Maru. It is debatable at this point if the whalers have been able to kill a single whale. The Whale Wars continue to rage on in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd's Operation Zero Tolerance continues to be their greatest campaign to date. One can only hope the end result is a massive profit loss again for the whalers.