With all the recent controversy about the Sea Shepherds and their collision with the Shonen Maru, a Japanese whaling ship, I decided to do a little mooching around for information among the bias and see if I couldn’t piece a bit together for myself.
I started with low expectations – ultimately any collision of ideologies, opinions or other opposing human factors tends to have both sides at fault and I don’t believe this will be any different.
It’s best to start any such investigation at the root of the issue. In this case that’s the general consensus that whaling is bad, and that whale populations suffer due to over hunting.
So how best to look at this objectively? If whale populations were stable, would whaling still be considered cruel by conservationist groups such as the Sea Shepherds? Is killing whales for food any different than killing Cows, Sheep or Birds?
The short answer is yes, from what I’ve read there’s no humane way to kill a whale, the whale will feel pain before it dies. This for us, as a species that loves our pedestals, is problematic. What I wonder though is whether we should be killing Zebras ahead of time in humane ways and tossing the meat to wild Lions so that they don’t have to suffer the pain of being pulled down and killed that way.
It may sound callous to make such a comparison, but predators exist, and I can’t help but ponder just how much of our esteemed humanity is energy wasted. Generally speaking I’m an animal lover, I also don’t particularly see the point of whaling, but I feel as though our tip-toeing around patting other species on the head is often pointless when the predator-prey reality of life on this planet is taken in to consideration.
Now lets focus entirely on the population issue.
Most of the whaling is at the expense of Minke whales, they are by far the most abundantly available whale in the oceans and represent a massive percentage of those caught. Minke whales only produce an offspring every couple of years, with Japan alone hunting in the region of 700 whales per year. It’d be easy to presume a hunt ratio of 1:1 for males and females, suggesting 350 female Minke whales are killed for food and so on each year by Japanese whalers. That’s 700 females every birth cycle, with is 700 less potential births.
Now we need to look at the total population of Minke whales, which at current is actually quite difficult, seen as the IWC (International Whaling Committee) don’t actually seem to know, and are undergoing a “major review” of numbers.
In the early 1990s the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee agreed that minkes in the Southern Hemisphere numbered 760,000 (CPII), which the Japanese whaling industry currently uses as the (2005) estimate. In 2000, however, the Committee withdrew this advice in light of new survey data suggesting 50% lower population than in the 1980s.
Japan has suggested in the past that the population of Minke whales was booming, even to the extent that the population of Minke whales was becoming detrimental to the re-population of larger whales. This has since been debunked by a DNA study conducted by Stanford University. It seems as though the original theory was mostly fabricated based on facts manipulated to support increasing the numbers of Minke whales hunted.
What baffles me is that the Japanese would go to such lengths to continue an industry that is bad for their economy, not only having to fight international pressure and seemingly fabricating supporting theories, but also continually pumping money in to whaling, an industry that is costing money:
In 2008, the Japanese fleet killed 551 minke whales in Antarctica, while in 2009 the figures jumped to a kill of 679 minke whales and one endangered fin whale. The increase in numbers has led to a glut of meat in the Japanese market; by the end of August 2009, some 5288 tons of whale meat was sitting in cold stores across Japan, a 16% rise in stockpiles compared to August of 2008.
Butler-Stroud continued, “Obviously, the Japanese neither need nor want to eat whale meat. The whaling fleet is costing the Japanese tax-payers money, and yielding nothing in return.”
Is the insistence on continued whaling due to a knee-jerk defence of culture? Seafood on the whole is certainly integral to Japanese culture, sushi being the staple food a foreigner would associate with the country, but does whaling need to be a part of that?
Then again, even with hazy population numbers, if Minke whales were at a mere 50% of the suggested 706,000, that’s still 353,000 whales, leaving 176,500 females to potentially produce an offspring every couple of years. As previously mentioned Japan alone is catching in the region of 700 Minke whales per year, doubling up to 700 females every two versus the 176,500 females with potential to reproduce. Surely the numbers hunted are negligible?
Obviously that 700 does not include those hunted by other countries, but even if 10 countries are hunting 700 females each every two years, that’s 7000. Surely 176,500 females will produce more than 7000 offspring?
I can understand the fuss where endangered whales are involved, but this debate is confusing from every perspective. The Japanese continue to push on with an industry that’s bad for their economy, and the Sea Shepherds and so on are one step from terrorism while attempting (and failing in truly hilarious ways) to stop Japanese whalers from taking stock of what whales that aren’t actually endangered.
Am I the only person missing the punch line here? Perhaps someone will read this and correct me on some of what I find so perplexing, that’d be nice.
While my sources aren’t exactly comprehensive, and I’ve not done all that much detective work beyond a bit of googling, I feel something is missing.
My only conclusion is that both involved parties need a smack in the mouth.
As for the collision that originally caught my interest, Sea Shepherds, really, if you don’t want your fucking stupid batman boat to get smashed, don’t sit in the path of a much larger ship. The Shonen Maru 2 could not possibly hope to intentionally run down a ship as quick as the Ady Gil without it being handed on a platter. Accusations of such are utterly redundant when your own boats position is taken into account.
To summarize, you’re a bunch of twats, regardless of whether the other ship was also at fault (Which I’m sure it was).
Can anyone really believe that after spending a day or so following the Shonen Maru 2 around hassling the larger ship, the Sea Shepherds would notice they were going to run out of fuel, then decide it was a good idea to stop in the path of the ship they’d been harassing? In the recording that’s available on this page the Sea Shepherd captain suggests the Ady Gil was stationary and out of fuel, yet the videos show wash from the engines of the ship, it’s moving.
With these things taken in to account these people should not be allowed to “represent” the fight against whaling, as they’re nothing but overgrown delinquents that will only perpetuate the practice – the Japanese are far more likely to dig heels in and raise middle fingers at this sort of behaviour than take opposing opinions to heart.
Well, Whatever. At the end of the day, all I’ve done is rambled and filled another post in what is just another blog on the internet. Still, it kept me entertained for a while.
Have a picture as a reward for spending all that time reading me talking about shit I know fuck all about.