Whalers return home early…
It was reported in the recent media that a fleet of four whaling boats have ended their annual trip to Antarctic waters after only a month into the season. The reason? The boats were being harassed by environmental groups opposed to whaling. Although the protestor’s actions have been similar in previous years, this is the first time the fleet have accepted defeat and headed for home. Two international news services are suggesting that this is the ‘beginning of the end’ for the whalers. I can’t help thinking that would be too good to be true, since Japanese whalers are such a determined group and seem to be able to find a way out of most scenarios which threaten their industry.
The head of the Japanese fisheries agency has blamed the return on the continued pressure from conservation activist group The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). It was announced that the SSCS were endangering the crew aboard the ships, using flares, water jets, smoke bombs and a host of other devices in an attempt to prevent the ships from continuing. They managed to entangle the propeller with rope and regularly park behind the ship, preventing it from landing whales. The SSCS have claimed this as a victory, but are their methods too aggressive and endangering life at sea under international maritime law? One of their crew was given a prison sentence for boarding one of the fleet from a jet ski, and their boat collided with a ship, which could have been potentially dangerous. The SSCS’s response to this is that they’re not breaking any laws.
Does that justify the actions of the SSCS on the high seas? Or should we, as a concerned audience, just all be pleased since they have got a result? My personal view is that I think it is great the whalers have potentially only caught 30 whales compared to their 900 target. Fighting a wrong with a wrong doesn’t make it right. The SSCS are considered on a par with terrorists in Japan, and their actions have simply enabled the fisheries agency to secure mounting public opposition towards them. However with increasing financial difficulties for the whaling industry, a formal complaint from Australia to the International Court of Justice and a new law on the allowance of heavy oil ships into the Southern waters coming into play from the International Maritime Organisation’s MARPOL annex 1 (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil), how long can the industry be expected to last? Who will pay for the diesel, or a new ship that can outrun the protestors? Even without the pressures of the conservation groups, the industry is in trouble from economic factors and could be the deciding factor in the decline of this industry.