Recently, the Japanese hunting fleet returned to its home port in Japan only to reveal the real extent of the damage that actions of the environmentalist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) inflicted on their planned annual catch. The ships only managed to secure about half of their quota, with the other half having been saved by the actions of the SSCS. The confrontations between the two sides were especially violent this years, and the tally includes an arrested activist and a sunken high-tech, wave-piercing trimaran, the Ady Gil.
Every year, under the disguise that it is conducting a genuine scientific program, Japan sends out its whaling ships to kill over 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean, south of Australia. For the past few years, their cull has been hindered by members of the SSCS who use various vessels, including their flagship Steve Irwin, to get right between the whales and the ships seeking to kill them. This was obvious this year, much to the enjoyment of people who stand by the environmentalists, in the faces and angry expressions of the Japanese sailors who returned home, the BBC News reports.
They say that 31 days of their sortie were completely blocked by activities performed by the SSCS, which had the direct result of them only catching 507 whales, rather than the 1000+ quota. They even blamed the Sea Shepherd protest as “violent interference,” but, as it stands, they are the ones who destroyed vessels, and not the other way around. In addition, Japan is hunting illegally, exploiting a loophole in a 1986 UN moratorium that expressly forbids hunting for commercial purposes. Thus far, the science Japanese experts have produced from the kills is absolutely negligible. Most of the handful of studies they did publish could have been conducted without killing the whales.
This is one of the main reasons why Australia announced that if the Japanese do not stop their illegal actions, it will bring the Asian nation to trial in international courts. This year was especially good for those fighting against Japanese whaling, given that the quota the sailors indeed manage to secure is the lowest in years. Regardless of what authorities say, the reality is that most of the whale meat ends up in supermarkets and is sold for profit, which by all definitions constitutes a commercial purpose.
“The lack of samples could affect the accuracy of our research,” said of the low catch Fisheries Agency representative Takashi Mori. “We hope so, but most importantly we know that the lack of ‘samples’ will impact their profits. We hit them long and hard this year and all our efforts and risks have paid off. There are now 528 whales swimming freely in the Southern Ocean that would now be dead if not for the fact that we intervened. It is a happy day for my crew and I and conservationists worldwide, a happy day indeed,” SSCS leader Paul Watson said.
“Ships are expendable, endangered and protected whales are not. We lost a ship and we have one crew member taken prisoner, and no injuries were caused nor sustained. I think we did bloody well this year. Now we need to re-organize, raise more funds, repair and prepare the ships and go back in December to do an even better job,” he added, saying that Operation Waltzing Matilda (the name of this year's voyage) was the most successful of all six expeditions of this sort carried out to date.
“If the average value of a whale is a quarter of a million dollars, then we succeeded in depriving the Japanese whaling fleet of around $132 million USD. It is safe to say that the Japanese whaling industry did not make a profit this season. The whaling fleet needs to kill at least 700 whales just to break even on expenses. And on top of their loss of profits was the waste of fuel expended while being chased by Sea Shepherd, the cost of security and defense systems, the cost of surveillance flights, public relations expenses, loss of labor costs (because the workers did nothing while the ships were being pursued). With no whales to cut up, they sat in the mess and gambled drinking sake and tea,” SSCS members add on their official website.