Whaling in Japan has come under fire again as news surfaces regarding a clash between Japanese whaling vessels and marine conservationists Sea Shepherd. Each side is blaming the other for the crash. The continued presence of whaling in Japan has become an international disgrace that is no longer tolerated by surrounding nations.
Around midnight, the conservationists found they were under attack by the Japanese whalers. They claim that Japanese trailed cables and ropes through the water to entangle the propeller of their ship the Steve Irwin. When Sea Shepherd sent out small boats to try disentangle the propeller, the whalers turned water canons on them and flung small projectiles in their direction. The whalers then crashed into their other ship the Bob Barker, damaging the bow. Captain Hammarstedt of the Steve Irwin stated that he had tried to evade the harpoon vessels to avoid major damage. Both ships remain sea worthy, but are in need of minor repairs when they return to port.
Sea Shepherd had been following the whaling vessels at a distance through the icy Ross sea for eight days. The sea is located off the coast of Antarctica where the whalers were preparing to harpoon a number of minke, humpback and fin whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The conservationists had been preventing them from their task, blocking the way for Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru. This meant the ship could not load whales onto its decks. Conflicting reports have been issued in Japan, who claim Sea Shepard was the one dragging cables through the water and preventing so-called research whaling.
Each year, Japan allows permits for the killing of around a thousand whales. This allowance is due to a loophole in the International Whaling Convention signed in 1946. The agreement states that countries can kill, take or treat whales for scientific research purposes. It is hoped however, that this year will mark the final year that Japanese whaling is permitted.
The country was taken to the International Court of Justice by the Australian government stating that they would not allow Japan to hunt whales under the disgraceful guise of scientific research any longer. This is the second time that Australia has taken them to task. Japan was found guilty of an earlier ruling in 2008, but refused to accept the jurisdiction of the court. This time around, they are being forced to defend their whaling stance. Sea Shepherd has put forward a number of theories that demonstrate whales do not need to be killed for science as better results are formed from tracking them electronically and looking at feces rather than stomach contents to gain knowledge of their diets. However, if the court rules in favor of Japan, then it could overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling and increase the number of whales killed each year.
Japan has claimed in the past that whale meat was part of their cultural heritage. However, history books show that the practice of whaling was limited to a very small number of villages until after the war, when it was deemed to be an easier protein to source than importing food from overseas.
The latest spat between Japanese whalers and Sea Shepherd as well as the impending court case serves to bring their shortcomings to light. The disgraceful actions in the southern waters have alerted the Federal government, who has promised to look into the matter. Australian Environmental Minister has stated that everyone must adhere to international maritime laws.
By Sara Watson