Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Although Sea Shepherd is presently focusing our energies on stopping the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica, we have not forgotten that Norway is equally guilty and just as ruthless at slaughtering whales.
The only real difference between the two nations is that Norway makes no excuses for their illegal whaling. They simply call it commercial whaling and dare the rest of the world to do something about it.
Of course, they know that most governments are all bark and no bite, and rarely take action over anything involving the protection of nature.
Every year, anti-whaling nations protest and every year Norway does what it wants anyway. Every year, like the Japanese, the Norwegians raise their quota just to spite their critics, caring little for the scientific validation of numbers or the health of the species they are hunting.
This year, they have let their arrogance get well ahead of their pseudo-science. Their self-allotted quota for 2006 is 1,052 piked (Minke) whales. The season which starts in April and ends next month has seen them kill 444 whales. They are not expected to kill more than 500 whales this year, which is less than half their quota.
The good news is that they will not get their quota.
They did not get their quota last year either and the reason is simple. There are just not as many whales in the North Atlantic as the Norwegians consistently claim that there are.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has long insisted that piked whale numbers in the North Atlantic are far less than what the Norwegians say they are.
Denying reality, the whalers blame bad weather. "It's been very slow this year, that's for sure," said Rune Frovik, secretary of the High North Alliance which represents whalers, fishermen and sealers in northern countries. "One reason is the bad weather - it's been rainy and windy and cold, and this June we had less sunshine than in any June for many years."
Same excuse as last year. Bad weather, it's Norway Frovik, you dummy. It's always bad weather, always has been, and always will be. If the Norwegians don't lower their quota next year, the weather will most likely be trotted out as an excuse again.
Perhaps the real reason is that modern Norwegian whalers have gotten all soft and lazy and just plain wimpy and reluctant to go outdoors in bad weather.
It appears that the days of the hardy Vikings has long past.
It's not as if they need the meat. Storage facilities are well stocked with unsold meat and the demand from the Norwegian public is falling each year.
By raising the quota to an unreasonable level they have literally bitten off more than they can chew and have revealed that they really don't know just how many whales are out there. There is no science, just guesswork influenced by greed and pride.
In Norway, it appears that the whalers call the shots and the government paid biostitutes parrot the desires of the whalers onto papers that they certify as "scientific."
Not that they care. Some Norwegian whalers and politicians have described the whales as the "rats of the oceans" and have advocated their extermination in order to have more fish available for human exploitation.
Evidence of their arrogance was seen recently when, off the Lofoten Islands, a Norwegian whaling boat blasted a whale before the eyes of admiring whale watchers. One minute they were looking in awe at a majestic cetacean and the next moment the sea was full of blood and the horrific screams of a dying whale.
Eighty tourists had paid to go out on a whale-watching boat from Andenes, in northern Norway last month, and while the tourists were marveling over one of the whales, a Norwegian whaling boat approached and shot the whale in front of their eyes.
Leontien Dieleman from the Netherlands was among those who was shocked by the slaughter they suddenly and unexpectedly witnessed. "This really wasn't what we came to see," Dieleman told local newspaper And?yposten.
As if the shooting wasn't enough, the tourists were also treated to the sight of another whaling boat hauling one of the dead whales up on deck. "It was a fantastic sight to see a whale swimming and breeching," Dieleman said. "On the way back to Andenes, though, we saw a dead whale on deck. The blood was running, it wasn't a pretty sight.
Captain Geir Maan, on board the whale-watching boat Reine, called the incident "unfortunate." He told And?yaposten that he was surprised when the whalers went ahead and shot a whale so close to his tourist vessel.
He said he and his crews try to explain Norway's controversial whale hunt to the tourists keen to see whales. He noted that the authorities also have used "a lot of time and energy to get whale hunting accepted in Norway." Shooting a whale in front of tourists was "like throwing oil on a fire that was about to die out."
Maan told the local newspaper that his passengers were "quite upset" by the shooting. He said he'd spoken to several whalers earlier this year, "and they assured me they wouldn't shoot near us."
What's another lie in a string of lies?
Passenger Gertjan Toorenaar said he'd heard of Norway's whale hunt before, "but it was something else to see it with our own eyes. This is a part of the Norwegian culture, but I don't like it at all." Jan Kristiansen, who represents the whalers, defended the shootings.
Kristiansen claimed that he and the other whalers "don't have anything against the whale watch boats... but it's important to get across that it's the extreme opponents of whaling that travel out to see whales. "We can't prevent them from being against the hunt, and they can't prevent us from hunting."
In other words, we'll show those bleeding heart outsiders from more civilized nations what real barbarians we really are.
It is interesting that whale-watchers are being accused now of extremism. Pretty soon the whalers will be calling them terrorists for observing a whale kill.
No wonder Sea Shepherd activists are labeled extremist. If watching a whale being killed is extreme, our sinking illegal whaling boats is certainly extreme in their eyes.
Sea Shepherd has sunk four illegal Norwegian whaling vessels since 1992 and has driven up insurance premiums on all Norwegian whaling operations. We don't call this extremism, we call it upholding the law against illegal whaling activities. Enforcement of the law is a rather conservative activity.