Whale wars to re­sume

The frigid wa­ters and rag­ing storms of the Antarc­tic are, once again, the dra­matic set­ting for an es­ca­lat­ing con­flict be­tween Ja­panese whale ships and those that want them stopped.

Element - - Global Bulletin -

When El­e­ment went to press, the Steve Ir­win ship – the flag ship of the Sea Shep­herd or­gan­i­sa­tion – was steam­ing past the equa­tor en route to yet an­other round of “ag­gres­sive non vi­o­lence” with Ja­panese whal­ing ships.

But this time the stakes are higher: the Ja­panese have in­di­cated that ex­tra “se­cu­rity” – in the form of an armed govern­ment fish­eries pa­trol ves­sel – will ac­com­pany the whal­ing ships to fend off the ac­tivists.

And the tools are sharper: both sides have he­li­copters and water can­non. The Steve Ir­win has been fit­ted out with steel spikes to pre­vent the Ja­panese from board­ing. Also in the ar­moury is bu­tyric acid stink bombs which can be hurled aboard any ves­sel close enough to wear one. The dan­ger and will­ing­ness of ships’ cap­tains to al­low their ves­sels to col­lide was well demon­strated with the sink­ing of the Adi Gil last year.

Speak­ing to the Guardian news­pa­per in Bri­tain, Sea Shep­herd Cap­tain Paul Wat­son said few peo­ple re­alise how dirty the tac­tics can get, with “hand-to-hand com­bat, col­li­sions, bom­bard­ments and sink­ings. Some of the scenes look like out of World War II. There are a lot of ships at sea, seven or eight at a time, water can­non go­ing.”

Even the rhetoric has es­ca­lated. The Sea Shep­herd op­er­a­tion has been named Op­er­a­tion Divine Wind. Divine Wind is the English trans­la­tion for the Ja­panese word ‘kamikaze’. Wat­son has said the name meant the so­ci­ety was call­ing on the divine wind to pro­tect the whales.

All things con­sid­ered, the cir­cus may well be mov­ing to the big top.

Both fleets are ex­pected to wage a me­dia and diplo­matic bat­tle, as well as en­gage in a dan­ger­ous phys­i­cal tus­sle on the high seas. Labour and the Green party here in New Zealand have also sug­gested the govern­ment send our own navy ships in an “ob­ser­va­tional” ca­pac­ity and in or­der to send a strong mes­sage to the Ja­panese govern­ment.

Wat­son is a vet­eran of the strug­gle, hav­ing sailed on just un­der 350 voy­ages over the past 40 years of ac­tivism.

And he knows what he’s do­ing: last year the Ja­panese fleet took only one fifth of its planned catch due to the ob­struc­tion of the pro­tes­tors. The show­down – in the Antarc­tic Whale Sanc­tu­ary – is ex­pected prior to Christ­mas and will last ap­prox­i­mately 12 weeks.

If you want to join him you’ll have to take your own boat: there is thou­sands world­wide on a wait­ing list to join the Sea Shep­herd crew.

Plans to charge the world’s air­lines for green­house gas emis­sion took an­other step for­ward this month. The Brus­sels-based Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice en­dorsed the EU push to in­clude global air­lines in the Emis­sions Trad­ing Sys­tem de­spite fierce op­po­si­tion from the car­ri­ers. In­dia, China, Ja­pan, the United States and Rus­sia, among oth­ers, all signed a dec­la­ra­tion to chal­lenge the plan at the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, an arm of the United Na­tions. At the time of go­ing to press, close to 1000 pro­tes­tors were com­plet­ing their 50-day march to­ward Bo­livia’s main city, La Paz, in protest over a planned Ama­zon road that will cut through the mid­dle of in­dige­nous lands. The protest has threat­ened the pop­u­lar­ity of pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales, him­self an Ay­mara In­dian, as pro­tes­tors say he is ig­nor­ing his own procla­ma­tion to be a stan­dard bearer for the dis­pos­sessed.

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