Whaling in JapanEach year, Japan may kill 1,000 whales (including endangered fin whales) under the pretext of carrying out scientific research. Commercial whaling is not permitted, so the country shamelessly takes advantage of this legal loophole and lets its fleet hunt in the whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean. As a matter of fact, the so-called “research” hasn't led to any relevant outcome so far. Luckily for the whales, the hunters are always accompanied by a crew of dedicated activists, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
At the same time, the demand for whale meat in Japan is decreasing. Only a small part of the population consumes it regularly and it is particularly unpopular among the young people. As a consequence, the Japanese government needs to subsidize the whaling industry by means of taxpayer's money. In 2004, the fast food chain “Lucky Pierrot” was given public money because it sells whale burgers. In reality, the main reason why Japan doesn't quit killing whales is because whaling is a tradition in the “land of the rising sun”. Several nationalist politicians campaign for the conservation of the tradition because they see the concerns of other nations as a threat to their country's sovereignty.
Dolphin Massacre in TaijiTaiji, a small fishing village in the south of Japan, has become world-famous after the cinema release of the documentary “The Cove”. The film shows disturbing footage of the annual mass slaughter in the town of Taiji. More than 2,000 dolphins lose their lives each year in this specific cove. During the catching season between September and March fishermen put to sea with tiny motorboats trying to spot dolphins. When the hunters have found a pod, they drive it into a small, solitary cove. The fishermen make use of the fact that dolphins have a very sensitive sense of hearing and that they will usually try to escape – in this case in the wrong direction. Once the mammals are cornered, some of the stressed animals are caught and sold to dolphinariums, the others are stabbed with spears barbarously. The authorities try not to disclose this massacre to the public in order to avoid international pressure but thanks to the documentary “The Cove” and the commitment of the Sea Shepherd activists (“Cove Guardians”) people from all over the world know about it. Now it is our turn to exert pressure on the government urging those responsible to put an end to the cruel and senseless slaughter of the highly intelligent cetaceans.
What's more, the meat of the dolphins is actually inedible because of the high concentration of toxins. The reason for that is that dolphins are on the top of the food chain, thus, they ingest vast amounts of harmful substances such as mercury. These pollutants enter the food cycle due to the mainly man-made pollution of the oceans. As a consequence, this bloody tradition does not only affect the oceans but it also harms the people that consume the polluted meat since it is found in many traditional Japanese dishes and is served in public schools.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC)The IWC (International Whaling Commission) is an international body consisting of 89 member nations. They agree upon the overall whaling policy. For example, the IWC declared the whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean in 1994. Despite its efforts to maintain a healthy whale population, the IWC must not be seen as a whale protection organization. In fact, the IWC seeks to harmonize economic and ecological interests. Thus, there are still several problems such as the Japanese commercial whaling under the pretext of scientific research, underwater noise and devastating fishing methods which exert pressure on the world's whale population.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS)The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an environmental organization which cracks down on whaling, pirate fishing and sealing. Since its foundation Paul Watson, a former member of Greenpeace, has been the head of the group. Sea Shepherd's legitimacy is controversial due to its radical policy. However, they do make a point of not harming anyone during their campaigns while at the same time being extremely successful in what they are doing. The numbers speak for themselves: 528 whales were saved in the season 2010 - 2011. One year later, Sea Shepherd managed to increase that number to 768 thanks to the relentless dedication of each crew member and worldwide support. In fact, the Japanese could only fulfill 30% of their quota in 2012 even though one of Sea Shepherd's vessels was damaged before it could reach the Southern Ocean where the annual whale hunt takes place. Operation "Zero Tolerance" of 2013 was already a victory before it had even started since the Nisshin Maru cleared the port as late as never before. After that, it didn't take long until the Sea Shepherd crew spotted the fleet and began to take action. In the end, "Zero Tolerance" turned out to be the most successful Sea Shepherd campaign ever: The environmentalists saved the lives of 932 whales meaning that the Japanese barely managed to kill 10% of what they had planned to.
Some other activists monitor the annual dolphin massacre in Taiji, a small fishing village in the South of Japan, which became world-famous after the release of the documentary “The Cove”. Erwin Vermeulen, a Sea Shepherd activist, was remanded in custody for three months because he was accused of hustling an employee of the “Dolphin Resort Hotel”. He was faced with assault charges. Despite a lack of evidence a verdict of not guilty was considered improbable because this case was not only about a judgement against one person but also about a judgement against the entire organization which is a thorn in the side of the authorities. Contrary to all expectations, Erwin Vermeulen was acquitted by the Japanese judge on Feb. 22nd, 2012. The “Cove Guardian” said that the judge “showed great courage in going against public opinion and ruling fairly“.
On May 13th, 2012 Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was arrested at Frankfurt Airport in Germany. The reason behind was a warrant issued in 2011 for a campaign against illegal shark finning operations in international waters near Costa Rica in 2002. The fishermen accuse Paul Watson of “attempted murder”. However, recordings provided by Sea Shepherd show that the activists were simply trying to disturb the fishermen and to stop their illegal activities. The fishermen have never been brought to justice.
Please also visit my Facebook page dedicated to the SSCS and the protection of whales: Free Paul Watson. There you'll also be informed about ways how you can help without spending any money.