Fighting an Economic Goliath in the Southern Oceans
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all."
- Walt Whitman
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
The fight to end illegal Japanese whaling will not be won by winning the hearts and minds of the Japanese people and it will not be won in the boring and increasingly irrelevant annual mutual masturbation sessions held in different exotic locations every year by the International Whaling Commission.
It will be won in the remote and hostile seas off the coast of Antarctica by an unyielding anti-whaling crew that will never back down to the threats and machinations of the whalers. We must communicate with the whalers in the one language that they truly understand, the one universal language every ocean raper and earth plunderer on this planet understands - economics.
It's all about profit and loss and our objective is to keep the whaling industry in the red. Our objective is to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically.
We can win this battle and we can drive the pirate whalers out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by never retreating and constantly intervening. Every whale we prevent from being killed is a negative entry in their ledger. Every mile they run from us is a negative usage of fuel and another loss entry in their books.
Some say that educating the Japanese public is the answer. We disagree. Educating an entire society can take years, even decades and there is no indication that Japanese society is anywhere near being sympathetic to the cause of ending whaling.
The whales are dying now. Our clients are the whales and they can't wait for the outcome of media propaganda campaigns that may or may not work sometime in the future. The Japanese public has already had three solid decades of efforts addressed to it by anti-whaling organizations without a hint of any will or desire on the part of the Japanese people to support the end of whaling.
And besides, the Japanese public don't call the shots with this issue. The whaling industry is a Yakusa controlled operation. The challenge is to convince the "Five Families" to end whaling and as long as there is a profit to be made from butchering whales, these families will not exercise any mercy for the whales.
The wondrously intelligent, socially complex beings, these amazing armless Buddha's, these great and magnificent whales are nothing more to the Yakusa than swimming commodities.
Our job is to raise the price of securing this commodity and to lower their profits. In this respect, Sea Shepherd has demonstrated great effectiveness.
The governments of the world should be addressing this issue. The fact is that Japanese whalers are targeting endangered species in an established whale sanctuary in blatant violation of the global moratorium on whaling. They are violating the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). They are violating the Antarctic Treaty and they have acted in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling ordering them not to slaughter whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The laws are available to stop them. The United States alone could end whaling by invoking the Pelly Amendment to the Packwood Magnuson Amendment.
The Packwood Magnuson Amendment was enacted in 1979. It was passed to strengthen the Pelly Amendment and both amendments rule that any nation that diminishes the effectiveness of the international whaling conventions must have sanctions imposed on their fishery imports into the United States. The amendment states that there is no allowance for discretion on the application of sanctions.
The first time a President considered the Pelly Amendment was in 1975 when President Gerald Ford declined to impose sanctions against Japanese and Soviet illegal whaling activities. He justified his decision on the grounds that he believed that both Japan and the Soviet Union would abide by future IWC decisions and that sanctions would cause a negative economic impact on trade within the United States.
Every President since has discriminated on the application of the law and has failed to impose sanctions under the law. In other words, trade appears to always trump the imposition of the law.
After 1986, Norway continued to whale on a commercial basis and Japan decided to take the path of deception and continued to whale under the guise of "research whaling."
In 1987, the IWC demanded that Japan, Iceland and Korea not conduct research whaling unless they agree to address the concerns of the IWC. They have never addressed these concerns. The IWC has never sanctioned the slaughter of the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The United States did take the view that Packwood Magnuson and Pelly could be applied and to that end in 1988, they persuaded Korea to not kill whales and they limited the numbers that could be taken by Iceland.
Japan refused to cooperate and began to escalate their "research" whaling in Antarctica. In 1988 the United States certified Japan and imposed sanctions. U.S. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the sanctions. To placate conservationists, Reagan said that if Japan continued on their course of killing whales in Antarctica, the sanctions would be imposed at a future date. They never were. Vice President Al Gore argued for diplomacy as an alternative and of course diplomacy has also failed consistently. Japanese trade has overruled sanctions year after year. The same economic leverage has been applied to Australia and New Zealand and other nations that have tried to pressure Japan on their whaling activities.
The new Australian government, elected in part on a promise to get tough on Japanese whaling, have reneged on their promise and have done very little but politically posture and pose.
So eager is Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett to appear to be winning that he jumped on an inaccurate report in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that Japan had cut their kill quota by 100 whales. After informing the Australian Parliament of this "victory," the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research announced that no such cut had been announced.
The Japanese whalers are keeping their date and place of departure a secret but they will be heading south very soon and Sea Shepherd will be tailing them as they do. We expect that the whalers will be exceptionally aggressive this year. After all the Yakusa motto is "politics is business and business is warfare."
The Japanese are expected to send a gunboat to protect their fleet this year. The announcement of this new tactic was quickly followed by a decision by Greenpeace to not send their ship back this year for the first time in years.
There has been and there never will be any question that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would back down from any threat from the whalers or the Japanese government. When we say that we are willing to risk our lives to protect the whales, it is not just a slogan for us.
Miyamoto Musashi once wrote that the way of the warrior is the "resolute acceptance of death."
Any cause worth fighting for is a cause worth dying for. What is important is that one's death not be a useless sacrifice.
Our oceans are dying. The great whales are being slaughtered. If this is not a cause worth risking life and injury for then I don't know what is.
I do know that when we return this season we must do all within our power to prevent the killing of the whales.
The Japanese whalers have the money, the political backing and the violent backing of the powerful and deadly Yakusa. They will have armed Coast Guard onboard. They will have a gunboat and they will have deadly weapons. They will be motivated by national pride and financial incentive and they intend to fill the Southern Oceans with the hot steaming blood of the defenseless whales and they will have no qualms about mixing human blood with the whales.
We suffer no illusions. We know they are capable of extreme violence. We know they value money over life.
But we will meet them in the most remote and hostile waters on the planet, we will meet them face to face, bow to bow and broadside to broadside and we will use our bodies as shields and we will attack with every non-violent but aggressive and legal option available to us. We will be armed with the most powerful weapons on the planet - the camera and our imaginations.
The word "samurai" means to serve and we serve the whales and we intend to demonstrate to the Japanese whalers that we take our service to the whales very seriously.
Back in March of 1973 I stood on a snow swept hillside in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. It was night but the snow was illuminated by a full moon and although the sky was dark, it was punctuated with the darting streams of tracer bullets as the 82nd Airborne attempted to pacify the members of the American Indian Movement. I was a medic in that conflict and as I stood there, a bullet whistled past my ear and kicked up the snow behind me.
I was a very young man then, and I took strength from that near death experience. I did not duck nor run nor seek cover. I felt the joy of being alive and my thoughts turned to Crazy Horse of the Oglala and Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa and the dog soldiers of the Lakota and two words came to my mind, two powerful words that I yelled forth into the night. Hoka hey. The war cry of the Lakota. "It's a good day to die."
And I thought of that great poem by Thomas MacCauley; Horatius at the bridge. "Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the gate: 'To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds...."
How indeed? Call me a fool or a hopeless romantic but I think and feel that there are causes worth dying for and defending the whales and life in the sea is the cause I have dedicated my life to.
And I have lived a very satisfying life since then in this seemingly endless war with human greed to defend the defenseless from the remorseless. I have had many close encounters but I have always felt blessed by the knowledge that every intervention saved lives. The knowledge of thousands of whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, sharks and other fish swimming free in the sea is worth more to me than any treasure or dream. In short it is a deep contentment and inner peace that has been my reward for all the battles fought and the miles traveled.
As we prepare to head southward to once again engage a proud and cruel gang of ruthless outlaw whale killers, those two words come back to me again with a profound and deep meaning.