Many whale populations have been reduced to less than 10% of their original size. We are currently in a period of major extinction. More species will have become extinct between 2000 and 2065, than have gone extinct in the last 65 billion years. “If we don’t find the answers to these problems, we’re going to simply be the victims of this extinction event that we’re at fault for” (Paul Watson). Because ecosystems encompass the interaction of a variation of factors and complex inter-relationships, it is impossible to determine for certain what repercussions further reduction of whale populations could have. And while the specific ecological niches of whales prior to whaling operations are not known, what is for certain is that whales fulfill important functions as apex predators in major ecosystems (Greenpeace Research Laboratories). Paul Watson puts it best; “There’s a limit to how far we can diminish the life in our oceans. We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean. If our oceans die, we die.”
Captain Paul Watson, executive direct of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been the subject of many controversial debates; he’s been called an ‘interventionist’, and the Japanese government even called him an ‘eco-terrorist’ for his direct actions against Japanese whalers. I admire Paul Watson for being the activist that he is, and his beliefs, efforts, and accomplishments. I don’t think the actions of an activist necessitate direct confrontation or aggressive tactics, but I do believe that it means that you stand up for what you believe in, and fight for the animals that otherwise don’t have a voice. Certainly, Paul Watson is an extreme example of someone who embodies these activist characteristics; he and his Sea Shepherds’ passion continuously puts themselves in harm’s way to save the animals they care so much about.
Paul Watson’s mission is the direct action to save whales and the ocean. His justification of the ‘aggressive’ tactics he uses, is: “You don’t beg criminals to stop doing what they’re doing. You intervene physically and you aggressively shut them down.” If government mitigation isn’t enough to save marine mammals, we are lucky that Sea Shepherd is willing to intervene on the whales’ behalf. For instance, 2010 marked Sea Shephard’s most successful campaign. The Sea Shepherds followed the “Nishimaru” whaling boat for 42 days, preventing the fleet from transferring a single whale onto the factory ship for almost half the whaling season. In the end, they were able to cut the Japanese whaling quota by half, and saved over 500 whales. This demonstrates what activism can accomplish, even in the small period of just 42 days. If we all started somewhere and helped, who knows the extent of what we could all do?
The title of this post is the message that I felt best summarizes the crisis we are now in and Paul Watson’s reasons for doing what he does, such is the case in “Whale Wars,” which documents his and Sea Shepherd’s efforts to stop whalers. Whale War’s 2011 campaign is called “Operation No Compromise.” The campaign title recognizes Sea Shepherd’s rejection of any kind of compromise deal with Japan for legalization of any whale kill quota in the Southern Ocean. Under the Antarctic Treaty, commercial activity of any kind is prohibited in the waters 60 degrees south, including commercial whaling. The Southern Ocean is an internationally established whale sanctuary. In fact, this February 11th marks a victory in the 3-year war against whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Japanese whalers ceased whaling operations in the Southern Oceans. These Japanese whalers have been operating in Antarctica since the 1930s, under the pretenses that they were legally killing whales for ‘scientific research.’ Sea Shepherd estimated that over 900 whales have been saved this year. Next, the Sea Shepherds upcoming campaigns will be battles against whalers in the Mediterranean Sea, the Faeroe Islands, and the Republic of Palau’s waters. Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd has also aided in the fight against the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, which you can read about in my “Taiji Cove” page. If you would like to assist this cause, please go here to find out how!
Paul Watson’s Story: