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.
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.