Saturday, September 7, 2013

Whaling, Will This be the Final Year?

Here we are in the year 2013 and there is still whaling going on in the world. Two nations are really, in my opinion, at the top of whaling in the world. One of those is Japan, whom the whaling portion of this campaign will largely focus on, and the other is Iceland. Japan claims to kill whales for scientific research in response to a moratorium on commercial whaling handed down by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In reality though, little if any research on whales has come out of Japan. The IWC allows a certain number of whales to be killed every year for scientific research. Rather than tossing out all of the unused whale meat, the IWC allows the meat to be sold. That is the loophole that Japan exploits on an annual basis. They claim they kill the whales for research, but then sell the whale meat for a profit. Iceland is far less sneaky with their whaling. Rather than trying to hide what they are doing under the curtain of research, Iceland states they are whaling for endangered fin whales for dog treats. Yes you read that right. Since the Tsunami hit Japan a few years ago, the demand for whale meat has taken a sharp dip and as a result, Iceland has turned to selling the whale meat in dog treats. Sadly the IWC has not issues any form of statement on this slaughter.

Meanwhile in Japan, there is a ton of attention on their whaling program. Over the summer there was an international court case in which Australia took Japan to court over the whaling issue. The reason for this is that Japan is actually conducting commercial whaling within the Australian controlled Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Many people believe that Japan's case in court is not a very convincing one. Some of the things Japan threw at Australia were scientific findings (apparently that could have been founded without actually killing the whale), claiming that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are simply hired by the Australian Government to do their dirty work, and also stating something about a food security issue. The claims really don't have much to do with the actual case from what I understand and many people feel that Australia clearly has the better case. Time will tell if whaling is going to resume in the Southern Ocean. Either way, this court has a massive, massive choice to make. Either way, the face of international conservation is going to change. Either Japan is going to be punished for their crimes or they are not and they will continue whaling in violation to the moratorium of the IWC.

The economics of Japan's whaling program make about as little sense as them trying to claim that they are whaling for research. Last year Japan arrived back at port with roughly 25% of their quota. The industry lost millions and millions of dollars as a result of that. For the past few years the whaling industry has literally been tanking. Millions lost every year. This is largely due to the intervention of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who seek to uphold the International Laws that Australia simply won't physically enforce. After the Tsunami, Japan even transferred some of their tsunami relief funds to beefing up security on the whaling ships. Yes, if you donated anything to tsunami relief in Japan, your money could have actually went to beefing up security on whaling vessels and not supplying people with life's essentials.

As the Japanese Antarctic Whaling Season starts to near, the world sits and waits to see what happens. The whalers begin to prepare for the season and Sea Shepherd prepares to once again uphold the laws that Australia won't. Last year proved to have the most violent clashes between the whalers and conservationists. At one point, the whaling factory ship actually shoved a conservation vessel into a fuel tanker, essentially sandwitching the conservation vessel between the other two ships. All kinds of  lives are going to be at stake this winter. Human lives for sure if last year was any indication of what could be to come, and the lives of an unknown number of whales are going to be on the line. Hopefully this court verdict will come down before the season starts and puts an end to the chaos and killing once and for all. If not, be sure that Operation Kibou will be following the ever changing events in the Southern Ocean throughout the winter.

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