Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eco Piracy? Whaling ship collides with protest ship

Image: Japanese whaling vessel and activists collide
Image above: the damaged trimaran Ady Gil and the Japanese whaler that rammed it.

The AP reports a collision between a vessel of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a Japanese whaling ship near Antarctica. Sea Shepherd boasts that it has scuttled and even rammed the ships of many whaling fleets.

I love the sea tales of the whalers - Moby Dick, and Nathaniel Philbrick's Sea of Glory -the story of the 1838-1842 U.S. Exploring Expedition that mapped much of Antarctica, the South Pacific, and the Pacific Northwest. The seamanship of the Nantucket whalers was awesome - but they had nearly wiped out sperm whales worldwide when the first "rock oil" was drawn in Pennsylvania, rendering whale oil obsolete.

There is no need to destroy and good cause to conserve the last stocks of whales, I agree. But sometimes the passion of the conservationists looks like Eco-piracy. In this dramatic video a Japanese whaling ship wrecks a protest ship obviously designed for rough conditions, and speed. If, as reported, they obstruct legal fishing, they are going too far.

But if as Sea Shepherd's videos appear to show - the Japanese in the name of "research" are harpooning 1,000 whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, the question is closer. The Japanese ships appear to be protected by Japanese Coast Guard. Sea Shepherd claims its purpose is to "obstruct, and interfere" with illegal whaling. But it is a dangerous game of chicken that Sea Shepherd is playing in the icy Antarctic waters - confronting the Japanese ships in collisions and near collisions. It is the province of government - not self-annointed privateers - to enforce the law.

The MSNBC video below is a very short clip. Sea Shepherd's own video appears to show the Japanese ship changing course to collide - and certainly making no effort to avoid the "Whales Navy" ship - a bat mobile like trimaran that once set the gloabl circumnavigation speed record. Sea Shepherd's video is HERE



Paul Watson has run the many incarnations of the Sea Shepherd operation for years. He's a card-carrying psychopath and adrenaline junkie who has found a politically correct outlet for his fantasies, which, like yours, are rooted in the likes of Moby Dick and the romantic and violent whaling past.

Some day I'll dig up the article for you I wrote in the late 1970s for The Real Paper in Cambridge about covering this bunch protesting the harp seal hunt off Prince Edward Island. Suffice it to say that after being mistaken for Sea Shepherd types, an AP photographer and I had to be escorted to the Prince Edward airport under armed guard, and thus escaped local anti-protestor mob by the skin of our teeth after having been virtually held hostage all one Saturday night. Afterward, back in Cambridge, I had my first and only experience of Stockholm sydrome.

Watson's exploits, for many years underwritten by the writer Cleveland Amory and his Fund for Animals, are longstanding and infamous. Even then he was a thoroughgoing thug.

That said, you're suspicion is correct: The Japanese whaling fleet -- which by the way has not been deterred in the 30-plus year I've been aware of their depredations -- richly deserve Watson and the whacked-out Sea Shepherdistas.

Russ Hoyle
January 8, 2010 12:31 PM

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