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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Ocean’

Anti-whaling confrontation escalates in Antarctica

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

This year’s encounters between Japanese whalers and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society appear to be the most violent of any year so far — and the whaling season is not yet over.

As I described in the previous entry in Water Ways, which I just completed, legal action against Sea Shepherd has caused few substantive changes in these high-seas confrontations. That’s because Sea Shepherd has transferred all such operations from its U.S. organization and to its Australian organization. The move effectively removes jurisdiction by the U.S. government, according to Sea Shepherd reports, mentioned in the previous blog post.

So let’s catch up on actions so far this year in the Southern Ocean between Sea Shepherd and the Institute of Cetacean Research. As I reported in January (Water Ways, Jan. 4), Sea Shepherd has added the 184-foot SSS Sam Simon, a former Japanese government ship, to its flotilla. The fleet now includes four primary vessels: the Sam Simon, Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Brigitte Bardot, as well as several unmanned surveillance aircraft.

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U.S. court declares Sea Shepherd a ‘pirate’ group

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch,” begins Judge Alex Kozinski, launching into a scathing ruling against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which the judge calls a “pirate” organization.

Kozinski, chief judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, concluded in a ruling today that U.S. District Judge Richard Jones had made “numerous, serious and obvious errors” when he declined to issue an injunction against Sea Shepherd for its high-seas battle against Japanese whalers.

The three-judge panel ordered that the case be removed from Jones’ jurisdiction and turned over to another Seattle district judge drawn at random.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Cetacean Research — the Japanese whaling organization — continues its effort to get a contempt-of-court citation issued against Sea Shepherd, which has increased its efforts to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd remains under a U.S. Court of Appeals injunction, which requires that the organization’s ships operate safely and stay 500 yards away from the Japanese vessels.

I’ll provide an update on Sea Shepherd’s activities in a separate blog post, but let me first tell you more about Kozinski’s ruling (PDF 238 kb), which finds nothing commendable about any of Sea Shepherd’s actions.

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Sea Shepherd claims victory over Antarctic whalers

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

UPDATE: March 16

The Japanese whaling fleet killed 266 Antarctic minke whales this year, compared to a government quota of 850, plus one fin whale, compared to a quota of 50, according to Michihiko Kano, Japan’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The Mainichi Daily News, based in Japan, reports that the low numbers were attributed to bad weather but noted that Sea Shepherd obstructed the whaling operations 11 times during the season.
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Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has completed another year of battling Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic, and again this year a camera crew was on board its ships to film a new season of “Whale Wars.” The new season of the TV show will begin in June.

The Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru 2 shoots its water cannons at a Sea Shepherd inflatable, which had approached it.
Photo by Billy Danger, Sea Shepherd

The Japanese government reportedly provided $30 million from its tsunami and earthquake relief fund to continue the whaling, which the government allows as “scientific research.” The ban on whaling includes an exemption for research, but the International Whaling Commission has failed to preclude the commercial sale of meat from “research” animals. The result has been an ongoing dispute about whether commercial whaling should be considered research.

Needless to say, Sea Shepherd does not consider it research. For the past eight years, the whale-advocacy group has followed the whaling fleet and disrupted the hunt whenever possible.

For much of the recent whaling season, which began in December, Sea Shepherd was able to divert the attention of two harpoon ships and a security vessel. Sea Shepherd’s leader, Paul Watson, said the whalers ignored their own protocols this year by going to the same area as last year:

“This illustrates that they really have no scientific agenda at all since their so-called survey requires them to ‘sample’ whales from the two different areas alternatively each year. This is not about science and it never has been. It’s not even about profit anymore because we have negated their profits. It’s simply about pride. Whaling in the Southern Ocean has become a heavily subsidized welfare project for an archaic industry that has no place in the twenty-first century.”

The following chronology was compiled from reports issued by Sea Shepherd and by the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research:
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Japanese whalers attack Sea Shepherd with U.S. law

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The Institute of Cetacean Research, which manages Japan’s whaling operations in the Antarctic, and Kyodo Senpaku, which owns the whaling ships, are seeking a court order against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The goal: to block Sea Shepherd from its “numerous violent and dangerous attacks against persons and vessels engaged in whaling, sealing and fishing.”

Court exhibit allegedly showing rope entangled on the propeller of the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3
(U.S. District Court filing)

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claims the court has jurisdiction over matters between U.S. and foreign citizens when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Sea Shepherd is based in Washington state, thus the filing in our region.

The ICR asserts that Sea Shepherd has violated international treaties and laws, including the “Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation” and the “Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.”

The lawsuit alleges that tactics used by Sea Shepherd have endangered Japanese whaling ships and their crews. Tactics listed include throwing butyric-acid-filled bottles, smoke bombs and incendiary devices; ramming one ship into another; and entangling the propellers with ropes.

Quoting from the lawsuit (PDF 176 kb):

“Unless enjoined as requested below, defendants will very soon engage in attacks on plaintiffs that will seriously endanger the safety of the masters, their crew and researchers, and the vessels owned by Kyodo Senpaku and chartered by ICR.

“Navigating in the Southern Ocean can be dangerous given the cold waters, the presence of icebergs, the possibility of storms, and its isolated location far from ready third-party assistance. If a ship lost propulsion or steerage due to a successful fouling rope attack, the ship, its Master, crew, and researchers could be put in serious jeopardy, especially in the vicinity of floating ice or if a storm or heavy seas occurred.

“The safety and health of the ship’s crew are endangered by the launching of projectiles against the ship, especially glass projectiles filled with butyric acid. A crew member could be blinded in such an attack or receive a blow to the head or body or be cut by pieces of glass. Such attacks also cause fear or distress in the crew, thus interfering with the normal operations on board. Incendiary devices like those launched in the past could cause a fire or, even worse, an explosion. Close-quarter attacks by SSCS vessels run the risk of a collision.

“Ramming of ICR’s and Kyodo Senpaku’s ships could cause them (or SSCS vessels) to sink or suffer other serious damage. The court should declare that defendants’ violent tactics employed in the past against ICR’s and Kyodo Senpaku’s activities in the Southern Ocean are unlawful, and the court should issue the injunctive relief requested below so that plaintiffs’ property and the lives of the Masters, their crew, and researchers are not endangered.”

Court exhibit allegedly showing damage to rudder of Yushin Maru No. 3 from prop fouler.
(U.S. District Court filing)

I have not talked to Paul Watson about this, but the Sea Shepherd leader has commented in news stories that he is not concerned about the lawsuit. Here’s what Watson said in a press release from his organization:

“This is simply a case of using the courts to harass us. I don’t believe they have a case and I doubt a U.S. court would take this seriously. Unlike Japan, the courts in the United States don’t automatically do what the government demands that they do.”

Watson claims in the press release that the whalers have been the aggressors:

“We have the images of the Japanese whalers destroying one of our ships, ramming our ships, running over our crew, firing upon us, throwing concussion grenades, deploying acoustical weapons, hitting us with water cannons and bamboo spears and they are suing us because they are accusing us of violence towards them.”

In an article published yesterday (Monday), Watson told Radio Australia that he almost welcomes the lawsuit:

“In fact, it’s actually a very positive thing because by filing in a US court, that gives us the opportunity to counter sue them for the destruction of the Ady Gil and for illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean, so our lawyers are certainly going to take advantage of this.”

For background on the Ady Gil, see Water Ways, Dec. 20, 2009. For all Water Ways entries on Sea Shepherd, visit this search page.

Another news release (PDF 12 kb) comes from the Institute of Cetacean Research, but reading the court complaint (PDF 176 kb) is more interesting.


‘Whale Wars’ series includes Bainbridge woman

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Izumi Stephens of Bainbridge Island, now a full-fledged crew member with Sea Shepherd, is looking forward to watching the fourth season of “Whale Wars,” which begins Friday.

Izumi Stephens

A preview for the program shows Izumi standing on the deck of a ship, gazing into the ocean with tears in her eyes. The clip is so short that even she can’t recall when that emotional moment was caught on film.

“It was probably when I saw a whale,” she said — though it could have been during other events, such as when the Sea Shepherd crew searched for a private yacht that had gone missing. Only an empty lifeboat was found.

Izumi, who has not seen any of the final footage, said she remained in an emotional state during much of the voyage through the Southern Ocean, where Sea Shepherd did its best to disrupt the operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.

Many crew members cried tears of happiness when they learned that the Japanese whalers were packing up and leaving the Antarctic a month earlier than normal, their efforts to catch whales confounded by the anti-whaling group. The whaling would stop — at least for this year — and Sea Shepherd crew members would return home to their families.

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Sea Shepherd claims victory for whales in Antarctic

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Unbridled joy has overtaken crews on three Sea Shepherd vessels as they celebrate a Japanese surrender from whaling in the Antarctic this year — and possibly for all time.

“Everybody is overjoyed, laughing and crying and hugging,” said Izumi Stephens, who is serving aboard the Steve Irwin, one of the three vessels harassing the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.

Izumi Stephens

I spoke to Izumi by satellite phone after the Japanese government announced an end to whaling a month early this year. (See story by Martin Fackler in the New York Times Global Edition.) Japanese analysts are now speculating that whaling in the Southern Ocean may never resume, because of the costs, challenges and changes in the market for whale meat.

“We think the entire thing could be finishing,” Izumi said of Antarctic whaling efforts. “This may be the last year in the Southern Ocean for everybody.”

Check out recent stories in the Japanese news organization Daily Yomiuri Online, one of which includes this statement:

“In addition to Sea Shepherd’s acts of sabotage, low domestic demand for whale meat — which used to be a valuable source of protein during the food-scarce postwar years — also has made the prospect of continuing whaling extremely gloomy, officials said.”

Izumi, if you recall, is a Japanese woman who lives on Bainbridge Island. After her husband died, she became committed to opposing the killing of dolphins and whales. She joined Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in November as a Japanese-language translator and has spent the past three months involved in the high-seas campaign against the Japanese whalers. See Water Ways for Jan. 14 and Nov. 1.

The so-called surrender has become big news in Japan, and Izumi has taken calls from Japanese reporters and conversed in her native language:

“I’ve told them that this is a big, big victory, a big victory for the whales. We are not against the Japanese people or the Japanese government. We are against the whalers…. We are not terrorists; we are just intervening against the commercial whalers.”

Through the Internet, Izumi has been keeping up with numerous Japanese news reports and blogs, where she has found herself under personal attack.

“People in Japan are mad at me. They call me a traitor to my country.”

Izumi is the first Japanese translator for Sea Shepherd to make her identity known to the public. During taping for the television show “Whale Wars,” she has not covered her face or kept her name secret, as previous Japanese translators have done. The revalation of a possible end to whaling in the Antarctic has raised her profile more than she anticipated.

“I never expected that it would be like this final end,” she told me.

She had imagined that the whaling season would end, as usual, in March and she would return home to her family. Then she would have all summer to decide if she should do it again. Instead, the “Japanese surrender” a month early — with uncertain prospects for the future — has created a media blitz and new level of anger in Japan.

“I can see in the newspapers that people are really mad,” she said. “My face is coming up on Japanese TV.”

The Japanese whaling organization, known as the Institute of Cetacean Research, consistently calls Sea Shepherd an eco-terrorist organization. The group regularly complains that Sea Shepherd’s flagship countries, Australia and the Netherlands, fail to take action for acts of “terrorism and harassment,” including bombardment with glass projectiles, smoke bombs and “incendiary devices.” The latest reports talked about the use of lasers aimed at the whaling ships. See ICR new releases.

According to the report in Daily Yomiuri Online, the processing ship Nisshin Maru was unable to shake off the faster Sea Shepherd vessels Bob Barker and Gojira.

Capt. Paul Watson, who directs Sea Shepherd, said the ability of his ships to stay with the whaling fleet made all the difference in this year’s success in minimizing the number of whales killed. Scroll down to the bottom of this entry to view the on-board video that Watson issued Saturday.

The Daily Yomiuri story quoted anonymously a high-ranking ministry official, who outlined four options for continued whaling:

  • Have the whaling fleet escorted by Japan Coast Guard vessels or others, an idea discussed in 2007 but scrapped for lack of escort ships.
  • Build new whaling vessels capable of traveling at high speed, an idea considered “almost impossible” because of costs.
  • Replace research whaling with commercial whaling, an idea that lacks support from other countries.
  • Continue current whaling arrangements, which has proven to be costly and difficult given the interference of Sea Shepherd.

Izumi said none of the options seems likely, but one never knows.

Another issue faced by the Japanese, she told me, is the success of the television show “Whale Wars,” which has brought notoriety and donations to the anti-whaling cause. The Japanese government may be concerned that Sea Shepherd will use its new-found clout to bring more attention to the decline of blue fin tuna (See Operation Blue Rage) and to the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, and other places around the world.

For now, Izumi is eager to get home to Bainbridge Island.

“I am really homesick,” she told me. “I want to squeeze my kids and pet my dogs and maybe take a nice hot shower. Yes, a long shower.”

Said Watson in a news release:

“I have a crew of 88 very happy people from 23 different nations including Japan and they are absolutely thrilled that the whalers are heading home and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is now indeed a real sanctuary.”

The Steve Irwin is scheduled to meet up with the Bob Barker and return to Hobart, Australia. Izumi hopes to fly back home to the Puget Sound region on March 10.


Bainbridge mom proud of her anti-whaling efforts

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Izumi Stephens, the Bainbridge Island woman who traveled to the Antarctic to defend whales against Japanese whalers, has ridden an emotional roller-coaster during her first 40 days at sea.

Izumi Stephens

One thing Izumi has learned is that the sight of a humpback whale can lift her spirits, she told me today by satellite phone from the Southern Ocean.

A native of Japan, this single mom signed on with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a translator. She is serving aboard the Steve Irwin, which is part of a three-vessel anti-whaling fleet in pursuit of four Japanese whaling ships. (Check out previous descriptions of Izumi in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 31 and Water Ways Nov. 1.)

The Steve Irwin left Hobart, Australia, on Dec. 2. Izumi was at sea about three weeks — having survived a bout of severe sea sickness as well as homesickness — when she spotted a massive humpback whale off the side of the ship.

“Before I saw a whale, I was desperately wanting to see my daughter and go back home, and I wanted to touch my dogs,” she told me. “Then I saw a whale, and I think my determination and motivation and everything caught up with me.”

She still misses her children, her friends and her community, she says, but seeing that first whale reminded her why she had joined the battle in the first place.

“I’m doing this for the whales and our future and our community,” she told me, “and I’m so proud.”

Spending weeks at sea is an experience like nothing she has ever faced before, Izumi said. She takes her turn at mopping floors, washing dishes and cleaning toilets. She has used her language skills on only a few occasions — mostly to speak to Japanese reporters covering the story and updating Sea Shepherd’s new Japanese-language website.

Watching whales swimming in the ocean has brought real meaning to the anti-whaling campaign, she said. A day or two after that first sighting, Sea Shepherd faced its first encounter with the Japanese whaling fleet.
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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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