There is a long ongoing conflict between whale hunters–mostly from a few places like Japan, Norway and Iceland–and those who go to sea to try to protect as many of these large animals as possible. In 2014 an anti-whaling ship claimed a coordinated midnight attack by the Japanese whaling fleet.
The year before there was this:
The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd said ships from the Japanese whaling fleet attacked its vessels, ramming them and hurling concussion grenades.
“There’s been the most outrageous attack on the Sea Shepherd Australia ships today,” said Bob Brown, a member of the board of directors of Sea Shepherd Australia, describing it as the “worst incident” the group had experienced since one of its vessels sank two years ago.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Brown said that a large Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, had repeatedly rammed Sea Shepherd ships in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica where it was trying to refuel and that a Japanese government escort vessel had directed water cannon and lobbed concussion grenades at the activists.
He claimed the Japanese ships had intruded into Australian territorial waters and breached both international and Australian law.
“I’m very concerned and alarmed that Japan has decided to become pirates in our territorial waters,” he said. “It’s time the Australian government acted.”
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said it was checking what had happened with the whaling fleet and was unable to comment further at this point.
Australian authorities didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from CNN, but the ABC cited Environment Minister Tony Burke as saying he was trying to confirm what had taken place.
“Let’s wait until I can get those reports confirmed, but I won’t be going quiet once I get the information,” he said.
Japan annually hunts whales despite a worldwide moratorium, utilizing a loophole in the law that allows for killing the mammals for scientific research.
Each year, environmental groups like Sea Shepherd face off with Japan’s hunters in a high seas drama that has led to collisions of ships, the detaining of activists and smoke bombs fired back and forth between the groups.
A Japanese whaling fleet returned to port on Friday after an annual Antarctic hunt that killed more than 300 of the mammals, as Tokyo pursues the programme in defiance of global criticism.
The fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, with plans to slaughter 333 minke whales, flouting a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.
The fleet consisted of five ships, three of which arrived on Friday morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, the country’s Fisheries Agency said.
More than 200 people, including crew members and their families, gathered in the rain for a 30-minute ceremony in front of the Nisshin Maru, the fleet’s main ship, according to an official of the Shimonoseki city government.
In a press release, the agency described the mission as “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea”.
But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (IJC) call that a fiction and say the real purpose is simply to hunt whales for their meat.
Anticipating the fleet’s return, animal protection charity Humane Society International called for an end to Japanese whaling. “Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed,” said Kitty Block, the group’s executive vice-president.
“It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.”
Japan also caught 333 minke whales in the previous season ending in 2016 after a one-year hiatus prompted by an IJC ruling, which said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science and ordered Tokyo to end it.
Under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to which Japan is a signatory, there has been a moratorium on hunting whales since 1986.
Tokyo exploits a loophole allowing whales to be killed for “scientific research” and claims it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting.
Can the IWC close the loophole? They actually did this at the end of October 2016.
The International Whaling Commission on Thursday (27.10.2016) passed, by simple majority, a resolution to more stringently review permits for Japan’s “scientific” whale-hunting program. Japan kills about 330 whales each year for “research.” However, meat from the whales ends up in supermarkets and restaurants, and only very few peer-reviewed papers have emerged from the hunt. Under the new rules, Japan must now seek approval from the IWC to hunt whales for so-called scientific research.
… At the IWC’s 66th meeting, which continues through Friday in Slovenia, the resolution passed with 34 votes in favor to 17 against. … since the IWC lacks the power to sanction countries that violate the resolution, Japan could continue with its whaling.
“We actually don’t expect them to adhere to this resolution,” Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation told DW. Supporting countries see the resolution as a statement – and a potential tool. If Japan does continue to flaunt international decisions, she said, “countries will have to step up their diplomatic or economic pressure on Japan.”
Update in 2018:
The Japanese government, along with other pro-whaling countries such as Norway and Iceland, attempted to lift the 33-year whaling ban at the annual International Whaling Commission meeting in Brazil, held on Sept. 14. The Japanese delegation at the IWC put forth a proposal to move IWC rules away from conservation and toward “resource management control.”
“There is this perception that we are asking [for the] total lifting of the moratorium. That is not the case,” said Joji Morishita, Japan’s commissioner to the IWC. “We are just asking for a small quota based on science, and of particular species in particular water. That’s it.” The proposal, which would open up the possibility for resuming commercial whaling, was rejected in a 42-27 vote.
The IWC first banned commercial whaling in 1982, though it didn’t take full effect until four years later in 1986. In 2016, Japan lobbied against the IWC to allow for small coastal hunts in four communities that trace a 5,000-year-old cultural practice of whaling, arguing “they are unjustly barred from a traditional food source.”
Conservationists were overjoyed when the IWC not only shot down Japan’s proposal, but reaffirmed the moratorium in a declaration seeking to bring the 1982 ruling up to modern conservation principles.
Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International, expressed support for the decision. “It is an immense relief that the IWC’s moral compass has led it to reject Japan’s reckless and retrograde attempt to bring back commercial whaling,” she said. “What Japan tried to do here was to bend and break the rules of the IWC to lift an internationally agreed ban on killing whales for profit. It deserved to fail; the world has moved on from commercial whaling, and so must Japan.”
In violation of the ban, but unchallenged, the Japanese fleet killed 333 whales in 2018 according to this.
A fleet of five whalers set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, as Tokyo pursues its “research whaling” in defiance of global criticism.
Three of the vessels, including the fleet’s main ship, the Nisshin Maru, arrived in the morning at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, a port official said.
The fleet caught 333 minke whales as planned without any interruption by anti-whaling campaigners, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement.
Japanese whalers have in the past clashed at sea with animal rights campaigners, particularly the Sea Shepherd activist group, which last year announced it had no plan to make offshore protests this season. …
Read more at: https://phys.org/
Poachers plunder marine life sanctuaries with impunity, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing goes unchecked in the high seas far from the eyes of international authorities and public scrutiny. International laws and agreements exist to protect ocean wildlife and marine habitats, but they can be difficult to enforce because of lack of political will, insufficient economic resources, or transnational boundaries that blur jurisdiction. Where a law enforcement vacuum exists, Sea Shepherd acts to fill that void.
“Unless we stop the degradation of our oceans, marine ecological systems will begin collapsing and when enough of them fail, the oceans will die. And if the oceans die, then civilization collapses and we all die.” – Paul Watson
For now, amid reports that 87% of our oceans are dying, the whalers have more ships and more economic resources than the activists.