Taking Three Fair Ships into Harm’s Way
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
|"It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win."
-- Captain John Paul Jones, Founder of the United States Navy
We have received information from a journalist in Japan that the policy for the Japanese whaling fleet for this season will be to not run from us BUT to attempt to kill whales in the presence of Sea Shepherd ships and crew. With all due respect, I would strongly advise the Japanese crewmembers to be very careful in implementing such a strategy. We view the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean as murder and I can promise them (three decades of our history will attest to this) that we will defend these whales with our lives.
I will not abide by a whale being killed in our presence. Two years ago, the whale that was killed and featured on Whale Wars was slain 12 miles from my ship and filmed from our helicopter. I would without hesitation place my ship in harm’s way to save the life of a whale. We cannot be expected to sit idle while a child is being molested, a woman is being raped or a person is being murdered. What kind of person would simply stand by and hang banners or take pictures while a puppy or a kitten is being stomped or kicked to death? We will not do so in the presence of a clear intent to murder a whale by these despicable poachers from Japan.
On June 7th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. In his speech he made reference to a quote from Captain John Paul Jones who reportedly said, “Give me a fair ship so that I might go into harm's way." But Kennedy misquoted Jones who actually said, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.”
Either way, these quotes work for Sea Shepherd. We have three fair ships: the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker and the Gojira and we intend to sail them into “harm’s way.” Our primary strategy is to block access to the factory ship the Nisshin Maru to prevent whales from being loaded. This involves keeping either the Bob Barker or the Steve Irwin in a position to not allow the transfer of a whale from one of the killing vessels.
The whalers tried to challenge us on this tactic two years ago. They had previous experience with Greenpeace attempting to do just this and they found that when they moved in aggressively, Greenpeace backed off to avoid a collision. They were quite shocked to discover that Sea Shepherd would not back off. Their attempts resulted in three separate collisions until the whalers backed off instead of us, and they did not attempt to unload whales in our presence again.
This season, if they try to muscle their way into position to transfer dead whales, they will find that Sea Shepherd will be even more persistent. If they attempt to do so, they will cause collisions. Sea Shepherd fully expects the Japanese whalers to be more hostile, aggressive and angry because they are more frustrated than ever. We have cost them their kills and their profits for the last five years. They have also been given the green light to act more violently in light of the fact that no one even questioned the Japanese captain who cut the Ady Gil in two and nearly killed six of her crew.
My crew has all been asked a very direct question: are you ready to risk your life to save a whale? Only those who have stated that they would have been selected for the Operation No Compromise Campaign; 88 men and women from 21 nations represent that commitment in these southern waters this year. Maybe the Japanese will refer to them as them as the “Crazy 88,” but the fact remains that each and every one of them represents millions of people who detest whaling. Their stories will be broadcast to millions of people through Whale Wars and their efforts will be written about in magazines, newspapers, and books. If one of us should die at the hands of a Japanese whaler, the entire nation of Japan will be shamed and the Japanese government will be vilified.
The government of Japan needs to make a decision. Are they ready to allow their mad dog whalers to injure or kill themselves or us to defend their illegal, lethal and universally unpopular activities in the Southern Ocean? Are they ready to risk the lives of their own citizens by allowing them to engage deliberately in high seas collisions in the most hostile, remote and unforgiving seas in the world? Are they ready to see people die to defend their cruel, archaic, unprofitable and pathetically craven illegal industry?
Sea Shepherd will not initiate a collision but our ships WILL hold station to block the unloading of dead whales up the slipway to the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru. We WILL hold station no matter how much the killing boats attempt to batter our hulls with their collisions.
Australia, New Zealand, or both should dispatch a naval vessel to the Southern Ocean to maintain the peace, observe the situation and be prepared to mediate and rescue crew if required. Both nations along with the United States and the Netherlands are calling for restraint but what does that mean exactly? Do they expect the Japanese to refrain from killing whales? Do they expect Sea Shepherd to refrain from protecting the whales? Where do they expect this restraint and how do they envision such restraint being exercised?
The Aussies and Kiwis will not be sending in their naval presence but the Japanese government has taken action to place military personnel on the whaling ships like they own the Southern Ocean territory, which in practice for all intent and purposes – they do.
What Australia and New Zealand should be doing is exercising their sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Ross Dependency. Their position is simply cowardly. In the name of appeasing corporate trade interests, they see their primary responsibility as hawking wood chips, wool, uranium and other commodities to Japan instead of acting in the interests of the whales within their own territories and their own people who wish to see real action on the part of their governments to protect the whales.
On November 17th, New Zealand issued a special, limited edition set of Ross Sea Dependency stamps commemorating five whale species: Minke, sei, sperm, humpback and orca. New Zealand claims the Southern Ocean region of the Ross Sea as its own. They claim the whales as their own. The question remains, why do they allow themselves to be bullied by the ruthless, plundering whalers from Japan?