Japanese Whalers Arming for Battle
If Japanese whalers had a sense of humor, their ships headed into the Southern Ocean next month would loudly blare Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
Why? Because the country’s Fisheries Ministry—rather than back down after Sea Shepherd successfully harassed them into quitting this past whaling season—has announced it will more than double its budget to protect its ships from protesters.
Eco Tweets Day & Night With TakePart Enviro
The most high-profile and effective of those protesters, Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has vowed to fight to the death.
Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano rationalized the increase in expenditure because the country “aims to restart commercial whaling in the future and the nation needs to continue research whaling to achieve that.” Last year, Japan’s whaling fleet sailed home early, fatigued by the Shepherd’s nonstop campaign; this year the Japanese government will spend in the neighborhood of $10 million to provide an escort boat to accompany the fleet—a first. Somewhat mysteriously, the government has also said it would use “other measures” to protect its fleet. “We intend to carry out the research after enhancing measures to assure that it is not obstructed,” Kano said.
Limited to less than 200 whales last year—off its stated goal of 1,000—the Fisheries Ministry says this year it has the same goal and intends to be successful.
Leaders from Japan’s neighbors, particularly New Zealand and Australia, condemned the decision to continue evading the 1986 international ban on whaling. Australia has filed an official complaint in the world court in Hague to try to get Japan’s “scientific” whaling stopped, but in a sadly typical example of bureaucratic malaise, a decision is not expected until sometime in 2013.
“Limited to less than 200 whales last year—off its stated goal of 1,000—the Fisheries Ministry says this year it has the same goal and intends to be successful.”
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Japan was “isolating itself from the international community” by deciding to resume whaling. Australians, led by Environment Minister Tony Burke, are leading the criticism since during the upcoming whaling season, the Japanese are expected to be doing their “science” in an area of the Southern Ocean declared an Australian whale sanctuary.
“There is no justification for continued whaling,” Burke told The Age. “They should not be sending their fleet to the Southern Ocean. We don’t accept that this is scientific. It should not go ahead.”
For its part, Sea Shepherd is planning on sending three ships to the Southern Ocean in November, with the intention of ending Japan’s whaling season early, one more time.
At its website, on the eve of its eighth season harassing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, Paul Watson issued one of his strongest threats against the whalers yet: “They will have to kill us to prevent us from intervening…”
“It now seems they are simply obsessed with killing whales not for need, and not for profit, but because they believe they have the right to do what they wish.”