Green Pirates Claim Victory on Whaling
By Mike Nizza
Paul Watson and the
crew of the Farley Mowat,
a Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society ship now held
by Canadian authorities.
A day after our post on Indonesia's declaration of victory against pirates, environmentalists who cultivate their own pirate image were claiming a victory over Japan.
The Japanese whaling fleet returned after a 5-month hunt with only half of what they hoped to catch, ostensibly in the name of science, though the meat ends up in the market. But this was no unlucky-fisherman tale, as a Japanese official told CNN. "This year's mission was disrupted intensively by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, who use violent means for disturbance," said Hajime Ishikawa, chief of Japan's whaling mission.
A day later, the head of Shepherd, Paul Watson, sounded trumphant. "I think it is safe to say that the Sea Shepherd crew seriously affected their profits this season," he said in a news release. "My crew and I are elated that 484 whales are now swimming free that would otherwise have been viciously slaughtered. And we are especially pleased that not a single Fin or Humpback died, and that is a complete victory."
The Nisshin Maru, a factory ship in a Japanese whaling fleet, injured a whale with its first harpoon attempt in January 2006. (Credit: Kate Davison/Greenpeace)
His deputy, Peter Hammarstedt, promised another round. "We hope to hurt them even harder next year," he said.
This year, Japan reported several nasty attacks on its boats as they were whaling in Antarctic waters. In March, the government labeled Sea Shepherd as a "terrorist group" after an attack involving more than 100 bottles of smelly acid. The Japanese crew responded to another attack around that time using flash grenades.
But the Japanese ships were apparently not rammed by the Sea Shepherd's vessels, Mr. Watson's "signature tactic," according to an excellent New Yorker profile. Statements by Mr. Watson and Mr. Ishikawa suggested that it wasn't for lack of trying.
In January, Mr. Watson threatened to ram the Japanese whalers but was unable to catch up with them. "I think they're running scared, really," he told Agence France-Press. "When we found them originally, they were down by the icebergs, and as we were moving in, they started running, and they've been running ever since."
Today, Mr. Ishikawa suggested that the Japanese mariners were not intimidated, just trying to avoid anyone getting hurt on either side: "Putting aside our own safety, their action put their own lives in danger," he said of the Sea Shepherd crew. "Therefore, we had to stop whaling a total of 31 days."
In the past, Japan accused Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace of piracy, a charge that Mr. Watson sarcastically accepted in a January op-ed article in the British newspaper The Guardian:
I stand in honorable company as a modern-day pirate, though I've not shot anyone, burned any ships, looted any cargoes or kidnapped anyone. We are also pirates with a sense of humor and a moral code of non-violence. In 30 years of eco-piracy we have never injured a single poacher, though we've sent nine whalers to the bottom. Instead of cannon balls, our guns shoot coconut cream and chocolate pie-filling. We toss stink bombs instead of grenades and we are so non-violent we don't even eat meat or fish on our ships. No fish, fowl or mammals have died in the making of our high seas campaigns.
What we do is defend the whales from illegal slaughter by ruthless and merciless killers. If people want to call us pirates for that, we're proud to be so. We have whales to save and Japanese ships to attack.
They are pirates all right, he intimated, but far from the ruthless kind that plague ships off Somalia and Nigeria these days. "Pirates of compassion" would be the correct term, he wrote.