The 56-meter (184-foot) long ship will be Sea Shepherd's latest weapon against Japanese whalers in the cold Southern Ocean (this ocean rings the Antarctic, and was known by me as the Antarctic Ocean).
Now… I know of the Sea Shepherd crew, having watched them in action in the awesome documentary Sharkwater (Everyone go and watch it) about the completely stupid shark finning industry - a film by Toronto dude Rob Stewart who is an awesome person and a great cameraman but could use my help in writing dialogue.
Sea Shepherd is a tough-as-nails organization, but to be honest, I didn't really have a problem in the way they handled themselves in the film. Paul Watson, in the Stewart book Save The Humans, was made out to be a quiet, tough man who probably though Stewart was another young environmentalist with lofty ideals.
Who is Paul Watson? He's a Canadian animal rights and environmental activist and the founder and face of Sea Shepherd, and you would want to stay on his good side, Japan.
Says Watson: "We have four ships, one helicopter, drones and more than 120 volunteer crew from around the world ready to defend majestic whales from the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet."
Apparently the number of ships is one less than the five in total belonging to Japan's entire whaling fleet. Yikes! But that doesn't mean all of Sea Shepherd will be in attack mode against Japanese whaling, but Watson does sort of give that impression.
|Paul Watson in a good mood.|
After retrofitting (you don't want to know if you are a whaler), and re-flagged to Australia, it was renamed the 'Sam Simon' in honor of one of the producers of the animated television show The Simpson's. Simon is a major animal rights campaigner, and donated the money for the purchase of the ship.
The white-hulled ship has been strengthened against ice to operate in seas near Antarctica, was purchased using a U.S. company from its home port in Shimonoseki-shi in Yamaguchi-ken, where it was berthed alongside the Japanese whaling fleet, according to Sam Simon skipper Lockhart MacLean.
McLean says: "The goal is to find the factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and to pin the bow of this ship ('Sam Simon') on the stern of that factory ship throughout the duration of the campaign, and send them home without any whales killed.
"We're confident we can seriously impact their whale quota. This year all four of their harpoon ships are going to be tied up by our four ships, and the goal is that no harpooning can be done," he notes.
Over the past nine whaling seasons in the southern hemisphere summer, the group has clashed frequently with the Japanese fleet, sinking one of its own Sea Shepard ships after colliding with a whaler in January 2012.
Despite a 1986 ban on whaling, Japan has sneakily skirted around it by bringing science into the matter, arguing that it needs to conduct scientific whaling (not commercial whaling) in order to see what the impact whaling has on its fishing industry.
And, we are sure Japan feels badly, that IF during the scientific whaling some whales get killed… and somehow end up being eaten by consumers.
Australia has filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in the Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling. A decision is expected in 2013 or later. I'll bet on later.
There I was… it was 1993 in Ohatawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, and I was sitting in a bra (surprise, surprise)… whoops, I meant to write bar. At that time, like now, my chest does not need support. Now... at that time there was a better than average chance I was sitting on a bra, left under my couch pillows...
I was at the 4C and I was talking to a Japanese dude about weird Japanese sashimi (thin slices of raw meats). So he took me to a nearby place and started ordering and purchasing plates of weird sashimi. Raw Cow Liver, Horse, and, of course, Whale.
|A can of whale meat.|
I asked the guy who was paying for all of this, why the Japanese needed to whale. Was it for their gas stations? (Joke.) Were they making perfume? (Possible.) Using it for their lamps? (Not likely.) Creating art out of baleen? (Possible, but unlikely.)
Look… I have no problem with native communities such as Canada's Inuit (formerly known as Eskimo) hunting whale. Yes, like Japan, whaling was a part of the culture, but the Inuit STILL require it as a food source. Japan does not NEED to consider it as a food source.
So, mine hosts says… "It's part of our culture, so we should eat it." I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember his exact words, though I'm sure there was an "uuuuuuuuuhhhhhh" somewhere in there. I'm pretty sure he was drunk - so drunk that he slurred when he wasn't talking.
Culture, eh? Okay… so I thanked him for his kindness towards me, and the next day I asked everyone at school—teachers and students whether or not they had ever eaten whale. I even asked my adult English class.
No. Not one person had ever eaten whale before.
So, I asked them if they thought that whale eating was a part of Japan's culture?
No? I was answered quizzically. I think they wondered if it should be. Hopefully I didn't encourage them by venturing a concerned question!
I get the feeling that whale meat is an elitist thing for many, who accept that Japanese culture must be maintained at all costs.
I kind of agree. But, one also has to grow with the times to forge a new cultural identity that the rest of the world can stomach. Culture can adapt to survive. It will take whales a lot longer.
As for Japan and its whaling industry… I sincerely hope no people or animals are hurt during this upcoming summer in the Southern Ocean.
Andrew "Not Quite The Prince of Whales" Joseph
PS: Special thanks to buddy Rob Jones who lent me his Sharkwater DVD and Save The Humans book. Stop shark finning!