Risky Business Down Under

“Sail forth – steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,

And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.”

– Walt Whitman

We realize that governments don’t view saving whales to be as important as round the world yacht racing or offshore fishing, so we were not surprised to hear that New Zealand and Australia have stated that they will not be prepared to rescue any Sea Shepherd crew in the event of accident or attacks from Japanese whalers.

The Australian government has announced they will not send a Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean this year and the entire Australian Navy has been tied to the docks and the sailors sent home for two months in a cost saving measure by the Australian Government.

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett has said he has allocated $6 million for non-lethal research on whales yet he says there will be no government ships in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. It’s a mystery how this non-lethal research is going to be carried out without observations in the field?
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully told the media that New Zealand “cannot underwrite the welfare and safety of every individual who is in the Ross Sea.”

Not that we asked, nor do we expect any help, but it is interesting that both Australia and New Zealand are making a point in advance of saying that we are on our own this year.

New Zealand and Australia have spent millions rescuing yachtsmen, fishermen and whalers. In February 2007, the Japanese government asked New Zealand to help a crewman who fell gravely ill near the Ross Sea. A New Zealand rescue helicopter airlifted him to a hospital.

This year there will be no Australian or New Zealand ships in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory – only Japanese whaling ships, possibly a Japanese gunboat and the Steve Irwin and our crew.

But we’re not naïve. This will be our fourth voyage to the Southern Ocean. We are fully aware of how remote the area is, and we are completely aware of how dangerous the waters and the situation is, with icebergs, unpredictable weather, and violently defensive Japanese whalers.

We know the risks and we are prepared to accept them. The alternative is unacceptable. To do nothing as a thousand whales are condemned to die a violent death from the cruel and illegal explosive harpoons is not an option for us.

Our ship is equipped with the best safety equipment available. We have a medical doctor onboard, we have adequate medical supplies and we have crewmembers trained as EMT’s. When our crews go out in the boats they are wearing wetsuits under their survival suits. We take precautions. But we are not foolish enough to believe that a disaster could not happen in these cold, lonely, remote, and stormy waters.

But that is the risk that we are willing to take because the only other alternative is to do nothing and that is the path taken by most governments and cowards. And how could we die better than facing fearful odds while defending the life of the gentle giants of the sea?

But with all the talk about risks and dangers and all the talk of violence between whale defenders and whale killers, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not talking about risk when it comes to the whales.

With the whales we are talking certainty of death. Unless we intervene, 935 Piked (Minke) and 50 Fin whales will die an agonizing death. We may not be able to save them all but we can save as many as we can with the resources we have available to us. If Greenpeace had agreed to work in cooperation with us, with two ships we could have the opportunity to shut down the killers 100%. But Greenpeace despite raising millions of dollars to send a ship down to the Southern Oceans has taken their cue from Peter Garrett and like Garrett they have reneged on their promises. Garrett gets to remain in office despite the disappointment of the voters who elected him to defend the whales and Greenpeace, well, Greenpeace gets to keep the money.

And the whales! The whales are the collateral damage to the selfish political and economic agendas of government and big business environmentalism.

And they will both condemn us as we head south. The governments will denounce us and call us lawless and Greenpeace will scathingly attack our tactics knowing that if they call us violent often enough, people will come to believe it. As the Nazi Satanic genius of marketing Joseph Goebbels once so famously said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,”

The questions that Peter Garrett and the governments of Australia and New Zealand must be ready for is simply how are they going to respond if Australian and New Zealand citizens are captured by the whalers? Will they stand by and do nothing as these citizens are hauled back to Japan, accused of terrorism for defending whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary? How will they respond if Australian and New Zealand citizens are injured or killed by violence from the Japanese whalers? Will they ignore them? Will they continue to use the excuse that they are taking the “diplomatic” approach? Will they just simply say, “we told you not to interfere?”

And how will the governments of the Netherlands, Great Britain, Canada, the United States, South Africa, Sweden, Bermuda, and Hungary respond in what will clearly become an international incident if anyone of our crew are injured, killed or captured by these whalers?

And so we see whales being blown apart and concussion grenades and bullets fired at us by people who have the audacity to call us violent for throwing rotten butter on their decks. They accuse us of throwing “acid” on them and of course this leads the imagination of the scientifically challenged to visualize people screaming in pain from disfiguring sulfuric acid whereas rotten butter also known as butyric acid is less acidic than beer, orange juice and milk.

When Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith say that they deplore any violence in the Southern Ocean they completely ignore the most violent action of all – the cruel slaughter of the whales.

Blood is being spilled, tons of blood and lives are being lost, nearly a thousand sentient beings, cruelty is being practiced and the misery and suffering the whales endure is horrific.

But instead of condemning this violence, the bureaucrats scream in indignation because Sea Shepherd crewmembers tossed some rotten butter on the deck of a whale killing ship. Instead of condemning the illegal activities of the Japanese whalers, the bureaucrats make exaggerated accusations of eco-terrorism against Sea Shepherd to which we can only respond with an “either arrest us or shut up.”

In over 31 years of campaigns, not a single person has been injured by a Sea Shepherd action. Not a single member of our crew has ever been convicted of a crime nor have we been sued. Why? Because we are not the criminals.

We hunt down criminals and we intervene against their illegal actions and unfortunately most governments stand with those who profit from the destruction of the natural world even when those activities are illegal.

It was not the British government and the British Navy that shut down piracy in the Caribbean in the 1tth Century. It was Henry Morgan – a pirate.

Sometimes you need a pirate to deal with pirates.

Captain Paul Watson is director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.