Environmentalists in contempt of court for anti-whaling activities

In order to disrupt a Japanese whale hunt during 2011, environmentalists featured in the Animal Planet TV show Whale Wars decided to throw acid and smoke bombs at a whaling ship’s crew. This being done in violation of a 2012 court order requiring the Sea Shepherd US to stay at least 500 feet from Japanese whaling vessels. According to The Associated Press, crew members of the Sea Shepherd US are known to conduct a variety of dangerous activities in their quest to halt whaling. Not only do they utilize throwing bottles of acid and smoke bombs at whaling ships the environmentalists also will attempt to ram whaling vessels, place metal reinforced ropes in the water in order to damage propellers and rudders, shoot flares with hooks and point high-powered lasers at whaling vessels in order to annoy crew members.

In 2011, the sea-faring environmentalists involved in the activities to halt an annual Japanese whale hunt near Antarctica. They were recently ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to decide how much Sea Shepherd US captain Paul Watson and the members of the non-profit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that Watson established and funds his group’s activities owe Japanese whalers for attorney fees, damage to their vessels and for abridging a court order to halt their activism. Japanese whalers are demanding $2 million on top of compensation for their legal costs and repairs to their damaged ships, respectfully. In 2013, the same anti-whaling group rammed another Japanese fishing vessel with a different ship in which Watson was present. The organization’s Australia affiliate also hosts an annual harassment campaign of whalers in the Southern Ocean known as operation zero tolerance.

The entire controversy surrounding the Japanese whaling industry is best summed up in this article published at Science Insider online:

Critics have long claimed that Japan’s research program is a fig leaf to sidestep the IWC’s 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling. The 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling allows taking whales for research purposes and allows the meat to be sold on the market; Japan uses the proceeds to defray research expenses. Whale meat dishes are widely available at specialty restaurants, in supermarkets, and online, and some Japanese consider it a delicacy. But consumption has declined in recent years and much of the annual catch ends up in storage.

Australia took the matter to the ICJ in 2010. In its 31 March decision, the court found that, among other shortcomings, the target sample size of the Japanese program was not scientifically justified, nonlethal means of doing the research were not sufficiently considered, and there was little peer-reviewed science. “The evidence does not establish that the program’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives,” said the court, which ordered Japan to immediately halt whaling operations under the Antarctic research program. The ruling did not apply to a similar effort in the North Pacific nor to small-scale coastal whaling.

If the Japanese are lying about their intent when their ships conduct whaling that is wrong. But what Paul Watson and his merry band of activists are doing is equally wrong too. The only solution I could think of to end the controversy surrounding whaling would be to open it up slightly to allow some commercial whaling. But in order to prevent illegal whaling in the interim, I think the best way would be for governments in countries where whaling takes place to commit resources to halting it legally or even militarily. There is blame on both sides of this issue, but even if the Japanese are whaling illegally it is no excuse for the vicious attacks Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd US have done. They have, rightly, been sanctioned for it. Below are scenes from the South Park episode Whale Whores that takes to task not only Japanese whaling but also the activities of Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd US crew.