Thursday, March 13, 2014

Japanese Antarctic Whaling Season Comes to a Close

Greetings once again everyone. As we draw ever closer to the end of Operation Kibou, Sea Shepherd has reached the end of Operation Relentless. This means that the Japanese Whaling fleet is heading North, back to Japan and Sea Shepherd is following them out of the Whale Sanctuary. With the International Court decesion on the legality of the whaling due to come down at some point, this could very well have been the last season for the whaling fleet if the courts rule in favor of Australia. With the whaling season now at a close, we begin the waiting game to see just how effective Sea Shepherd's Operation Relentless was. Early estimates from Captain Paul Watson is that the Japanese may have killed just over 200 whales. That seems like a large number, and it is. Financially however, this number would result in another disasterous year for the whaling fleet as they typically need to kill around 500 or so to even break even on expenses. 

Despite that being a possibility, there is still zero reason for this whaling issue to even exist. At the start of Operation Kibou I made note of the fact that there is an International moratorium on commerical whaling. Japan goes down to the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary with a self imposed quota every year to perform lethal scientific research. The Internaional Whaling Commission allows the meat of any of these whales that are killed for scientific purposes to be sold as opposed to just going to waste. It is a loophole that the Japanese expose each and every year. They claim to be doing research, but with virtually no research coming out of Japan and a very large number of whales being killed, things just don't add up to scientific research. They hunt in the name of sciene, but really are only in it for the money. What that means is that this is not scientifc whaling, but it is commercial whaling, which is illegal. Also, the whaling fleet hunts in a whale sanctuary established by and controlled by Australia. What do we call people who go in and kill lions in wildlife preserves? Poachers. So what is the difference between them and the whaling fleet? Nothing other than the fact that it is the Japanese Government that continues to ignore the sanctuary and allow it's ships to enter Australian waters and kill whales. However, I can no longer solely place the blame on Japan for the continuation of this slaughter every year.

Despite multiple claims by the Australian Government, they have done very little to fight Japan over the issue of whaling. Yes they took them to International Court. That was a smart thing to do. Hopefully it pans out in Australia's favor, but there remains a much larger issue. When the Australian Government got voted into office, they promised to put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. They have failed on that promise, and largely even failed to act on it. They said they would send a ship to monitor the whaling fleet. They didn't. They said they would send a ship to monitor clashes between the whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd. They didn't. They said they would use an aircraft to monitor the whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd. There was one breif fly over and that was it for the entire season. If you were the government of Japan, would you stop whaling down there knowing that nobody besides conservationists are going to try and uphold international law? Japan has no fear of the consequences of their actions because there are none. If Sea Shepherd wasn't down there and Japan was allowed to catch their quotas, they would have a nice, illegal, little operation going on in a whale sanctuary. Even if the International Court rules in favor of Australia, it would not surprise me one bit to see the whaling fleet again attempting to poach whales because Australia wont actually do anything about it. 

So what can we hope for now? Well if I understand things right, it is nearing election time in Australia. We could hope for a change in government to one that will actually do something about the whaling issue since it is actually on the minds of many Australians. We can also hope that the Internationl Court does rule in favor of Australia and even if they do not do anything, perhaps another nation (New Zealand?) would be willing to step up and uphold international law. We can also hope that by some miracle Japan realizes that whaling has no place in the world. The days of needing whale meat to sustain peoples are largely over save for a few native peoples who kill what they need and are not supplying entire countries. The whales have a major purpose in our oceans and for us to continue to drive species to extinction is simply not a right thing to do. There is a ton that we can learn from these animals without killing them and if Japan realizes this, than I have zero doubts that Japan could become the country doing the most whale research. Until then, I do not think for a second that killing over 500 whales a year is going to provide some massive whale research as opposed to producing a questionable profit and nothing more. 

As I close out the whaling portion of Operation Kibou I want to remind everyone of something. Japan is not the only nation killing whales. Iceland continues to have it's own commercial whaling program that it carries out in it's own waters as well. Earlier in the campaign I even did a blog about Iceland actually processing whale meat into a beer. The Faroe Islands, which I will be looking more into during Operation Bleeding Seas II, continue to have an annual pilot whale slaughter as well. While these two whale slaughters may not garner the attention that Japan does, they are hardly different. The main difference is that Japan is doing some of their killing in a whale sanctuary which brings much more controversey. Whaling has no place in the world we live in today. The fight for the whales is not a new thing. It has been going on for quite some time now and it is a fight that I think we will eventually win. The vast majority of the world is opposed to commercial whaling and as time goes by I think more and more of the world will be. Thank you all for reading the whaling blogs of Operation Kibou. I hope that you guys found some interesting things in these blogs and hope you will join me for the special Faroe Islands blog topics that will be a part of Operation Bleeding Seas II. Remember a whale is a whale no matter how small and the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands deserve far better than what the people of those islands give them...

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