Whale conservationists are trying to disrupt “criminal” Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.
The Sea Shepherd Society’s Paul Watson rejects calls for both sides to show restraint, saying “You don’t use restraint against criminals.”
The Japanese whalers will kill more than 1,000 minke whales illegally in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. The whalers also kill Bryde’s, sei, and sperm whales all endangered species in the North Pacific.
40 percent of whales taken are killed instantly. Most of the others are killed with a second harpoon or even rifle fire and suffer extreme pain for about an hour before dying. Many whales are “struck and lost”, escaping after the first harpoon but suffering possibly fatal injuries. Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough says there is “hard scientific evidence that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea”.
A whale’s life is difficult enough without having to evade hunters. They face a number of threats, including climate change, ozone depletion, habitat loss and degradation, chemical, nutrient, and hard waste pollution, fisheries, collisions with ships, capture for aquariums, and harassment by whale watching boats.
Climate change will alter the oceans’ currents and, therefore, whales’ food supply. Depletion of the ozone layer has allowed more ultraviolet radiation to reach the surface of the ocean, where it has killed krill, the major food of baleen whales and the basis of the ocean’s food chain.
Habitat is degraded and destroyed by several kinds of pollution. Toxic chemicals, including spilled and illegally dumped oil, affect whales’ health and food supply; noise pollution, including seismic tests and military sonar, causes health problems and even death as well as limiting whales’ ability to communicate; hard waste pollution, including plastics and discarded fish nets, is now found in all of world’s oceans; and whales die as part of the bycatch of the world’s extensive and intensive fisheries.
Surfacing or sleeping whales are struck by ships; whales are stressed by harassment
by whale watching and recreational boats; and whales are killed by continued whaling.
The Japanese whalers insist they can take whales in sanctuaries because they are conducting “scientific”, not commercial, whaling, even though whale meat is openly available in restaurants throughout Japan.
The first sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) when it was founded in 1946, covered 25 percent of the Southern Ocean between South America and New Zealand. In 1994, the sanctuary became the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, including all waters surrounding Antarctica. The sanctuary was intended to protect 75 percent of whales in their feeding grounds.
In 1979 the IWC established the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, protecting whales in their breeding and calving grounds. Eleven Pacific nations have established national whale sanctuaries extending over 28 thousand square kilometers (10,800 square miles) of the South Pacific which complement the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In the U.S., the National Marine Sanctuaries Act authorizes the designation of sanctuaries. Perhaps the best known sanctuary is the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
A measure of humanity is how well we treat each other and other passengers on this planet. By this measure, we’re clearly failing to live up to our moral and ethical responsibilities.
Perhaps Paul Watson’s criticism of the Japanese whalers could be extended to all of us?