Skip

Whales for Sale II
February 13, 2012 2:37 PM   Subscribe

A whale of a tale. On Sunday, a jet-ski activist of Paul Watson's Sea Shepard gang (Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson Documentary) was water-cannoned into the Antartic by a Japanese scouter boat during filming of Whale Wars. The ICR presents a different side to Paul Watson as evidenced by their regular press releases. Greenpeace believes Paul Watson is an extremist.
posted by Funmonkey1 (199 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
To get the Japanese side of the story (and to find out what dicks the Sea Shepherd folks are), this Japanprobe post is worth checking out.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing I like about Paul Watson is that he really pisses off the kind of people I like to see pissed off.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 2:44 PM on February 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


He pisses off pretty much everyone doesn't he?
posted by Artw at 2:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would expect the people manning the cannon are experiencing pleasure rather than anger
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2012


so you like that they goad a nation that doesn't even really like whale meat into a defensive face-saving position, rather than actually making meaningful progress in preventing whales from being hunted?
posted by danny the boy at 2:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


So someone who spends all their time harassing whaling ships, was near a whaling ship with the specific purpose of harassing a whaling ship and screwing up their propeller (or whatever) got knocked off his jetski?

I don't really get it. It's like running around slapping people in the face, and then getting upset when someone hits back. Now, maybe you can argue that those people deserve to be slapped in the face. But it's not like that guy had any reason to be anywhere near the other ship.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


He'd have to get swept into a propeller and ground into hamburger to get much sympathy from me, and then maybe only a tiny drop. Dude makes me side with wahlers - WTF is that about?
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


We actually need more people like Watson. It's the old Overton window, which has been working tirelessly in shifting so many things rightward we need some shift leftward as well to make institutions like Greenpeace seem levelheaded and easy to work with. EarthFirst! was doign that for awhile but haven't heard much from them in awhile.
posted by edgeways at 2:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


NOTE TO PAUL WATSON: THAT BIT ABOUT GETTING GROUND INTO HAMBURGER IS *NOT* A SUGGESTION. You mad egotistical idiot.
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on February 13, 2012


Haven't the Japanese figured out that it was Cow and Chicken who were responsible?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:54 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the kind of errant vigilanteeism that becomes necessary when the UN refuses to enforce its treaties. Paul Watson is an utter bastard, but as long as the Japanese whalers are flagrantly violating international treaties someone needs to be there to stop them.

danny the boy: “so you like that they goad a nation that doesn't even really like whale meat into a defensive face-saving position, rather than actually making meaningful progress in preventing whales from being hunted?”

Talking has not helped. It's been freaking decades. Nobody seems willing to do anything about this.

If anybody dislikes Paul Watson, there's a very easy way to get rid of him and deny him a platform. Just stop Japanese whaling – which is illegal – and his little podium will disappear like so much smoke.
posted by koeselitz at 2:59 PM on February 13, 2012 [35 favorites]


Someone should convince the Japanese that batmobile-shaped party boats are good eating. It'd be win-win.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on February 13, 2012


I'm with edgeways. We need these folks, just like the anti-slavery movement needed John Brown.

Watson advises readers to make up facts and figures when they need to, and to deliver them to reporters confidently, "as Ronald Reagan did."

I'm afraid we need these guys too.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:04 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is what rankles me:

According to Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, the second attack came yesterday when two inflatables from the Steve Irwin tried repeatedly to disable the Yushin Maru No.2.'s rudder and propeller. "The deployed ropes were fitted with buoys, metal pipes and wires," an ICR statement said.

We've all seen this on camera courtesy of the Whale Wars show, so we know this is almost certainly true in this instance -- they attempt to throw prop-fouling devices in front of the ships.

Trying to get yourself between a whale and a harpoon is admirable. But fouling a propeller is potentially lethal to the humans. If you prevent a ship from maneuvering, you run the risk of leaving the ship helpless in stormy seas where it can be rolled over by waves and sunk.

For me, this is where the all of the Sea Shepard crew's credibility just dissolves in one fell swoop. You're literally valuing the whales' lives over the humans. Fuck. You.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:04 PM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


You're literally valuing the whales' lives over the humans.

Where's that good old American respect for law? These folks are international criminals. I suppose we only tend to murder small-time pot smokers.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not even sure what the point of linking to the Institute of Cetacean Research is. They're nuts. It's completely fucking ridiculous - hardly anyone eats whale in Japan (clearly the only consumer-driven part of the industry is the capture of porpoises and dolphins for display in aquariums, which is not a uniquely Japanese practice).

Industrial whaling is a weird, vestigial industry that really only plays a part as a bargaining chip in Japan's foreign policy.

It is a
posted by KokuRyu at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2012


a nation that doesn't even really like whale meat

I mean, to the extent that the US is a nation that doesn't really like liver and onions. It's a food that some people like and can get even if it's not the most popular thing. I've mentioned it before, but I once showed up late to dinner with some coworkers and someone had ordered whale, so I tried it without knowing what it was. It doesn't taste bad to be honest, but it's also not "let's go out and kill whales under the guise of scientific research despite international outcry" good.
posted by Hoopo at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Either scientists are unduly alarmist about the state of the biosphere, or it is time to undertake drastic action. Which is it?
posted by No Robots at 3:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


These folks are international criminals.

Then call for their arrest and prosecution. They come ashore every now and again, don't they?

Or perhaps you prefer wild-ass vigilante justice? Here, give me your address. I'm pretty sure you stole my car. No, really, you're a criminal. You can trust me to tell the truth. You don't mind if I handcuff you, right?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


We actually need more people like Watson. It's the old Overton window, which has been working tirelessly in shifting so many things rightward we need some shift leftward

Paul Watson's left wing like Ron Paul is left wing. Watson long worked with Jack Metcalfe, a far-right US congressman from Washington State who was a leader in the "wise use" (i.e., radical property rights) movement, fellow travellers with the militiamen and borderkeepers and all those racist assholes.
posted by docgonzo at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting. The concern is with the safety and well-being of a few humans whose species numbers around 7 billion right now. Because the few tens of thousands of whales can take care of themselves. Gotcha.
posted by ensign_ricky at 3:15 PM on February 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


(Do keep in mind that the Institute for Cetacean Research is basically a front for commercial whaling. They are not a credible source for information about whaling protests.)
posted by gingerest at 3:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Interesting. The concern is with the safety and well-being of a few humans whose species numbers around 7 billion right now. Because the few tens of thousands of whales can take care of themselves. Gotcha.

Interesting. You just came out and condoned murder of humans to protect animals. Gotcha.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: “If you prevent a ship from maneuvering, you run the risk of leaving the ship helpless in stormy seas where it can be rolled over by waves and sunk. For me, this is where the all of the Sea Shepard crew's credibility just dissolves in one fell swoop. You're literally valuing the whales' lives over the humans.”

That's a pretty big jump. This is direct action. The point is to disable illegal Japanese whaling vessels. The people who captain these vessels know as well as we do that this might happen, because of something Sea Shepherd does or because of natural causes. For this reason, they take precautions, working to keep radio contact and traveling in groups as much as possible. Given the love for publicity the Sea Shepherd has and the infamy these whaling vessels have around the world, it's unlikely that a ship would be left out there without anybody knowing about it.

mrgrimm: “These folks are international criminals.”

Cool Papa Bell: “Then call for their arrest and prosecution. They come ashore every now and again, don't they?Or perhaps you prefer wild-ass vigilante justice? Here, give me your address. I'm pretty sure you stole my car. No, really, you're a criminal. You can trust me to tell the truth. You don't mind if I handcuff you, right?”

Nobody seems willing to enforce international treaties. People have tried for years to make this happen, but it doesn't. At this point, vigilanteeism is all we have. Given that it is as non-violent as it can be, I think this is necessary.
posted by koeselitz at 3:17 PM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I used to really dislike the Sea Shepard and its tactics. I suppose I still do. But as already cited, the problem is the whaling. These activists have horrible tactics, but the Japanese have a flagrant disregard for the rules and their faux "scientific research" and there is very little international pressure to get Japan to stop whaling. None that has any real consequences, anyway.

And I don't think its literally valuing the whales lives over the humans - But it is taking a calculated risk towards a small number of humans involved in illegal and immoral hunting over the possible loss of entire species. Is one human life worth the death of a whole species? Even an accidental death? I can't say, I don't even want to dwell there. However, that is the more accurate thinking here.

I don't know, its not too surprising to me that a group of humans would try to protect those that can't protect themselves, even against other humans. It's one of our more endearing traits.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [25 favorites]




Saying nothing about the relative merits of the Sea Shepherd organization or its members, or the ICR, or whatever, note the photo credit: This is basically a rewritten Sea Shepherd press release.

So, guy in dry suit on a water craft designed to get its rider wet falls in the water, climbs back on his boat, organization gets big coverage. Effective use of media, I do have to applaud them on that front.
posted by straw at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whales, people hunting whales, whales, people, whales, people ... fuck it, just change the climate and see who does the better job of migrating to their food source.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2012


Interesting. The concern is with the safety and well-being of a few humans whose species numbers around 7 billion right now. Because the few tens of thousands of whales can take care of themselves. Gotcha.

Interesting. You just came out and condoned murder of humans to protect animals. Gotcha.


A lack of safety and well being does not equal murder, does it? I think the point is to disable a ship so that other whaling vessels have to come to their aid. But ultimately, if you want to frame my comment as fouling propellers is murder, then yes, I would rather see a few humans die than a few whales. Humans are easy to replace. As I mentioned above, we have approximately 6.9 billion spares. Whales and a majority of the rest of the ocean's creatures... not so much.
posted by ensign_ricky at 3:26 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interesting. You just came out and condoned murder of humans to protect animals. Gotcha.

No, he didn't. He made an observation. Take a deep breath.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:27 PM on February 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Dammit. Preview fail.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:29 PM on February 13, 2012


I think the solution is to provide whales with giant armed and armored exoskeletons so that they can fight back. This is a solution that could never come back to haunt us....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:32 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Metafilter really is a predominantly right-wing site after all.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Paul Watson's left wing like Ron Paul is left wing. Watson long worked with Jack Metcalfe, a far-right US congressman from Washington State who was a leader in the "wise use" (i.e., radical property rights) movement, fellow travellers with the militiamen and borderkeepers and all those racist assholes.

Great point.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on February 13, 2012


KokuRyu – you said above that Japanese whaling is "a weird, vestigial industry that really only plays a part as a bargaining chip in Japan's foreign policy." Can you say what you meant by that? I'm pretty interested in your perspective. have a feeling you know a hell of a lot bette rthan
posted by koeselitz at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2012


(Meant to say this, but it got mangled: I have a feeling you know a hell of a lot better than me.)got mangled
posted by koeselitz at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2012


I would rather see a few humans die than a few whales. Humans are easy to replace.

You'll volunteer, then? Wait, I know. I'll choose one of your friends at random ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This "human death vs whale death?" derail is a bit silly. You don't have to want to kill humans to want to save whales, and I think it's hard to argue that anybody on Sea Shepherd has directly tried to murder any whaler, even though they are mightily annoying and assholish.
posted by koeselitz at 3:38 PM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I am trying to understand, and from this discussion I'm under the impression that:

- Japanese whaling is illegal
- But there's no government body willing to enforce the law
- Japanese people don't want whale meat
- The whaling is done for research purposes
- Or "research" purposes
- The whale species caught by the Japanese whalers are near extinction as a result of whaling

Are these accurate?
posted by zippy at 3:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


it's hard to argue that anybody on Sea Shepherd has directly tried to murder any whaler

I'll come back to the prop foulers. Not exactly murder. Certainly reckless endangerment. "I love this animal so much, I'm going to deliberately put you in harm's way in order to save it."

Idiots, please. I love Shamu as much as the next guy. I'm not going to drive my car through a playground in order to prove it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to drive my car through a playground in order to prove it.

Your analogies are becoming offensive. They were just stupid. You should stop now.
posted by Big_B at 3:45 PM on February 13, 2012 [23 favorites]


I love Shamu as much as the next guy. I'm not going to drive my car through a playground in order to prove it.

I missed the part where the kids on the playground were trying to eradicate "Shamu" and his entire species from the face of the Earth, in violation the laws of every civilized country including their own, and for no apparent commercial or other reason. I'm still not saying you would mow them down, but let's get our analogies straight.
posted by The Bellman at 3:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


I don't think there is anyone here suggesting 1 whale > 1 human. However, there is the suggestion that maybe protecting one species of animal might be worth the danger placed on a few humans threatening that species.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: “I'll come back to the prop foulers. Not exactly murder. Certainly reckless endangerment. ‘I love this animal so much, I'm going to deliberately put you in harm's way in order to save it.’”

It certainly is reckless endangerment; and this is why GreenPeace refuses to align itself with Sea Shepherd, because they say that these acts are violent even if they result in no death or harm. As they put it, if you hold a gun to somebody's head, that's an act of violence, even if you never pull the trigger. I can see where they're coming from.

At the same time, I wonder what other recourse we have. Maybe that's a fair question to ask.

Big_B: “Your analogies are becoming offensive. They were just stupid. You should stop now.”

Maybe slightly outlandish, but not quite offensive, I don't think. Instead of getting offended we should probably just try to discuss our points of disagreement.
posted by koeselitz at 3:48 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who has personally experienced eco-vigilantism Watson can garner no sympathy from me. When I watch Whale Wars, I watch to see how bad Watson and his crew can screw up. Each time they do, I clap.
posted by The Power Nap at 3:49 PM on February 13, 2012


Paul Watson is one of a microscopic minority of human beings who is actually doing what needs to be done. The rest of us sit in our chairs and call him names, while wishing the nice government would save the planet for us.

I couldn't care less if Paul Watson is an "asshole" or not; I don't have to share a bedroom with him. His effectiveness as an activist is all I care about.

I think you'll find that people who takes decisive action of this nature are almost always overbearing, and often cruel and half-crazy. That doesn't mean they're not doing the right thing.

Society and the media decide which people to demonize and which ones to turn into saints. Nelson Mandela comes to mind. I think he's a great man, but I find it interesting how most Westerners seem to think that he's some sort of pacifist saint. Mandela engaged in activities that were way more violent than anything that Sea Sheperd has ever done. So how come Mandela is lionized and Watson is reviled as an "asshole"?

Also, people who categorically dismiss the possibility that the loss of even one human life in defense of the planet might be justified just don't understand the scale of the problem.
posted by crazylegs at 3:50 PM on February 13, 2012 [38 favorites]


And while I'm thinking of it, we're not just talking about a species of animal that is just, you know, a dumb brute. Sad that any species might be lost, but for a lot of people, the idea of wonton killing of a species that may have a level of intelligence similar to humans make the issue even more prickly.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who has personally experienced eco-vigilantism...

That sounds interesting. Could you expand?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:53 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


wonton killing

Sad but funny typo.
posted by pracowity at 3:53 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody seems willing to enforce international treaties. People have tried for years to make this happen, but it doesn't. At this point, vigilanteeism is all we have.

There's a point there. It's one thing to support the system, but when the system flat out refuses to do what the system is supposed to do, your set of choices is to either give up or ignore the system and do something else.

I'll come back to the prop foulers. Not exactly murder. Certainly reckless endangerment.

In many jurisdictions, any death caused during the commission of another felony automatically becomes murder -- explicit intent to kill isn't need, and even an accidental death (say, you crash the escape car and kill a bystander) becomes murder. The actual felony must present a foreseeable risk, and there must be clear linkage between the felony and the death. In some cases, merely being an accomplice is enough, but most now demand direct action.

I would say that if you fouled the screws of a vessel, thus causing that vessel to go aground is a *very* foreseeable risk if you are anywhere near a lee shore, and if someone were killed because of the ship running aground because they couldn't maneuver, there would be a clear linkage, and it would, in my eyes, be murder in any jurisdiction that has the felony murder rule.

The only question is if the predicate felony is one of those that can lead to felony murder.
posted by eriko at 3:58 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


struck on his chest by the water cannon, and knocked into iceberg-dotted waters... swam back to his jet-ski and was able to return to the Steve Irwin, where he recovered from the cold. ... "In addition, the activists threw by hand five smoke bombs and about 21 glass bottles containing paint or butyric acid."

eh sounds like a pretty even exchange to me
posted by nathancaswell at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


metafilter is so weird. Mostly rational, but then something which needs to be done, like what Watson is doing (or occupy protests, or whatever) hits the news, and the "law and order above all (except for the 1%)" dudes come out of the woodwork.
posted by maxwelton at 4:15 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


I missed the part where the kids on the playground were trying to eradicate "Shamu" and his entire species from the face of the Earth

Who cares? You're either putting people in danger or you're not.

This is one of those things where it really is that simple. Paul Watson famously says, with dramatic gravitas, "Would you risk your life for the whales?"

Well, would you recklessly endanger someone else's life for the whales? He never seems to ask that question. At least not on camera.

Every one of those Japanese whalers has a family that loves them. You're going to roll those dice? Go ahead -- look a kid in the eye and tell him you're going to do something that might hurt his father. And for what? An animal.

The inability to see this for what it is speaks volumes about compassion for fellow man.

Paul Watson doesn't value human life in the same way you or I do. He would rather you just went away.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the Sea Shepherd crew at the dolphin hunt were being assholes. There has to be some room for small scale cultural whaling ( even though I still find it impossible to justify myself).

BUT:

1."Research" whaling as practiced by Japan is a sham.

2. There are NO justifiable reasons for hunting and killing great whales. NONE.

3. Japan, as a whole, blatantly disregards sustainable fishing methods. From long-lining, to "research" whaling, to refusal to protect bluefin tuna, they embrace commercial fishing on a dangerous level.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:21 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


metafilter is so weird. Mostly rational, but then something which needs to be done, like what Watson is doing (or occupy protests, or whatever) hits the news, and the "law and order above all (except for the 1%)" dudes come out of the woodwork.

Yeah that's not why metafilter is weird. What makes it weird are these bizarre self-congratulatory statements that aren't even close to true and get a shit ton of favorites. That is not anywhere close to what people were saying about Occupy, and that's not what people are saying about what Watson is doing.
posted by Hoopo at 4:21 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: “Who cares? You're either putting people in danger or you're not.”

Well, sure. If you don't think that stopping whaling is a priority at all, then it's not a hard call to make. But do you really think that? Do you think of whaling as inoffensive and harmless and not worth worrying about? If you don't, what do you think should be done?

None of us are saying what we're saying out of loyalty to Paul Watson or out of a desire to kill humans before whales. We just thing something really needs to be done. I think we'd entertain other suggestions, too.
posted by koeselitz at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2012


I'd like to bear witness. Some time in the mid 80s I was in a march for peace in downtown Vancouver. At a point mid route in the parade, Paul Watson was on a prominent balcony, overlooking the parade. I guess he thought he was some bigshot. Everybody booed him.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2012


Every one of those Japanese whalers has a family that loves them.

So do all sorts of criminals, soldiers, etc. Sometimes force is justified, and the fact that people have loved ones does not change this.

Besides, has anyone actually been killed by them? It's a possibility, sure, but it's not like they're launching a military operation.

Since they're in international waters and there is no effective international law, it's kind of up to individuals to make any difference.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:27 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I couldn't care less if Paul Watson is an "asshole" or not; I don't have to share a bedroom with him. His effectiveness as an activist is all I care about."

He's a zealot. Due to his hyperbolic behaviour and statements*, unengaged people who would otherwise sympathise with his cause are turned away from him. He's actually having a negative effect on people's opinions towards conservation groups.

* For example, his recent statements and behaviour include claiming that people from one of his ships, who had boarded one of their ships, were being "kidnapped"; demanding that a 3rd-party government "rescue" them; and - after his ships have spent all summer following and interfering with their ships - claiming that one of their ships that followed two of his ships (one damaged and under tow) back to port was "spying" and "acting illegally".

People see through that sort of hypocrisy, and don't like it.

posted by Pinback at 4:31 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nobody here is saying he's good PR. We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling.
posted by koeselitz at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is he good at that?
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on February 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Watson advises readers to make up facts and figures when they need to, and to deliver them to reporters confidently, "as Ronald Reagan did."

I'm afraid we need these guys too.


Really? Isn't there enough bullshit in the system?
posted by Mcable at 4:35 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think if Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd didn't exist, the Japanese would be happily driving whales all the way to extinction, rather than doing it with at least a little bit of difficulty and resistance.

Also, Greenpeace would have sold out even more than it has.
posted by crazylegs at 4:36 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know, its not too surprising to me that a group of humans would try to protect those that can't protect themselves, even against other humans. It's one of our more endearing traits.

I hear that about this guy, too. A real hero for the defenseless, there.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe Watson's critics would like him better if he went the route of Patrick Moore.
posted by crazylegs at 4:41 PM on February 13, 2012


Nobody seems willing to enforce international treaties. People have tried for years to make this happen, but it doesn't. At this point, vigilanteeism is all we have. Given that it is as non-violent as it can be, I think this is necessary.


Nobody here is saying he's good PR. We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling.


These statements are both wrong. The first is a false dichotomy - negotiations break down; therefore vigilante bullshit is the only way to get things done. There is so much in between these two points it's not funny.

As for stopping Japanese whalers, actually no, he's terrible at it. They've been doing this shit for years and Japanese still keep on whaling, and taking the same or more whales every single year. By your own standards deriding the IWC, you should be at least as down on Watson.

Paul Watson is one of a microscopic minority of human beings who is actually doing what needs to be done. The rest of us sit in our chairs and call him names, while wishing the nice government would save the planet for us.

This is super popular sentiment, but honestly it's just so naive and one-dimensional. If you want to change things you need to do it through the politial and legislative channels of the day, and walking away is not going to do it.

This is what multi-polar, democratic change looks like, you know. It's slow, hard, incremental, frustrating. I realise this kind of thinking is instinctually anathema to many Americans - as amply demonstrated in this thread - but, if you can accept you're not the boss of other people or countries by virtue of *your* morals just being righer - then this has how it has to be done, and will be done mark my words.

The dogmatic, dangerous, show-pony antics of Watson and his ilk foster walking away, disagreement and lines being born. In actuality - I don't know why people have so much trouble accepting this - Sea Shephered most assuredly works to continue Japanese whaling.
posted by smoke at 4:47 PM on February 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


Can you say what you meant by that?

For one thing, there is no logical reason for pelagic whaling (aka "research" whaling), because nobody eats whale, except for drunk folks at the pub. Prior to WWII, there was no major Japanese pelagic whaling industry - people didn't even regard bluefin tuna as a luxury food, or even a staple. Everything changed after the war, when Japan's large population was faced with the prospect of starvation. Industrialized pelagic whaling and fishing was seen as a means to increase food security, and whale meat was a major source of protein, especially for children, after the war. My own wife grew up on whale for school lunch in the 1970s. But as Japan became more affluent, people stopped eating whale meat. It's still sold in the supermarket these days, but only as a beer snack. The prime purpose of the research fleet is to provide government-subsidized jobs in the Tohoku region.

In terms of foreign policy, a lot of different countries play around in the IWC; Japan can't afford not to participate in the forum, and it's a somewhat effective way to gain influence (and counter the influence of other countries). This FP article provides some additional insights.

Fundamentally, Japan is a conservative country - Japanese folks care about preserving what they consider to be time-honoured cultural traditions such as whaling (despite the fact that industrialized, pelagic whaling only dates back to the end of the war). People are surprisingly emotional about the subject, due, in no small part, to the kinds of confrontational tactics employed by Sea Shephard, and condoned and even encouraged, quite unfairly, but Australia and NZ.

I've been in bars where drunken coworkers have made it a point of ordering whale meat to see what my reaction might be. I don't eat it (probably the only thing I won't), but I don't bother lecturing people about why it is wrong to kill whales.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


on preview: what smoke said.

>Nobody here is saying he's good PR. We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling.

You're half wrong. He's the best PR the whaling industry could hope for. He knows it, they know it, and this whole ongoing debacle is just part of their unspoken mutually-beneficial agreement, which BTW does not include the whales nor the general public.

>I think if Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd didn't exist, the Japanese would be happily driving whales all the way to extinction, rather than doing it with at least a little bit of difficulty and resistance.

Nope. I made this comment over four years ago and pretty much NOTHING has changed. I've no love for the subsidy-parasite whaling industry, but Paul Watson is just as much an entrenched part of the problem.

I can only hope that I'm not repeating myself two years from now, but I'm not optimistic.
posted by PsychoKick at 4:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Huh. How is it newsworthy that a guy on a jet ski fell off the jet ski? That's pretty much how jet skis work, no? You expect to get in the water at some point if you get on one.
posted by The World Famous at 4:53 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cetaceans are tasty when prepared properly. I see no reason to separate them from other marine or animal species that we hunt and eat. In fact it seems that cod, tuna and salmon may be more at risk from over harvesting these days. If we are going to consume meat and seafood, then I think whale shouldn't be taken off the table. Furthermore ambergris, whaleskin leather and whale oil are very useful substances and the ecological costs of their substitutes is often higher and derived from non-renewable petroleum.
posted by humanfont at 4:55 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The thing I like about Paul Watson is that he really pisses off the kind of people I like to see pissed off

But does it actually help or hurt the cause? Greenpeace argues it hurts by consolidating Japanese public opinion behind the whalers.

Feeling good is a terrible reason to do something. Doing something effective is a great reason to do something.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cetaceans are tasty when prepared properly. I see no reason to separate them from other marine or animal species that we hunt and eat. In fact it seems that cod, tuna and salmon may be more at risk from over harvesting these days. If we are going to consume meat and seafood, then I think whale shouldn't be taken off the table. Furthermore ambergris, whaleskin leather and whale oil are very useful substances and the ecological costs of their substitutes is often higher and derived from non-renewable petroleum.

This isn't really logical, nor is it a choice we get to make. There are not going to be any more fish, period, if we continue on this path.
posted by odinsdream at 5:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Furthermore ambergris, whaleskin leather and whale oil are very useful substances and the ecological costs of their substitutes is often higher and derived from non-renewable petroleum.

Are you just playing devil's advocate? Whale hunting and processing requires lots of petroleum. I doubt it is a reasonable offset.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:03 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cetaceans are tasty when prepared properly. I see no reason to separate them from other marine or animal species that we hunt and eat. In fact it seems that cod, tuna and salmon may be more at risk from over harvesting these days.

There aren't enough fish or whales in the sea for every human on earth.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:05 PM on February 13, 2012


koeselitz: "We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling"
ArtW: "Is he good at that?"

Nope. In the Southern Ocean, the Japanese have been taking a steady catch of ~250~400 whales (all Minke) per year since 1987. That's down from ~1950 in 1986, the year that the IWC's ban on commercial whaling was begun.

FWIW, and this is in no way indicates my support or otherwise for whaling, that's a maximum (assuming the lower estimate of 500,000 whales, and an upper catch of 400) of about 0.08% of the estimated population of Minke whales in the Southern Ocean.

OTOH, statements such as "Japanese whalers are flagrantly violating international treaties" are just wrong. They haven't (been caught) fishing inside other countries territorial waters, or in internationally-decreed sanctuaries or exclusion ones. Ostensibly, they're fishing is conducted under a specific exemption allowed in the treaty (though nobody believes that's the real reason). Far from "flagrantly violating international treaties", they're obeying them to the letter (if not the spirit).
posted by Pinback at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


This guy may be an asshole (I don't know him), but in the long view of history, who are your descendants going to see favorably; this guy trying to save whales (which possibly won't exist by then, and if they do, it will be a miracle) or everyone who is sitting around bitching about what an asshole he is?

Whales are amazing creatures that we're about to lose for the stupidest of reasons; macho nationalism and apathy. If whalers don't want to have their feelings hurt by a dude trying to foul their props, maybe they should stop slaughtering the goddamn whales.
posted by emjaybee at 5:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


True but if we eat tuna, why not porpoise. It seems that diversifying our catch and diet might allow for a more sustainable harvest of tuna.
posted by humanfont at 5:12 PM on February 13, 2012


There aren't enough fish or whales in the sea for every human on earth.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 AM on February 14 [+] [!]


Yes indeed, and it's my understanding that aside from the excellent analysis provided by Kokuryu earlier, Japanese govt opposition to a ban on whaling is also motivated by setting a precedent re: bluefin tuna.

They were busted a couple of years ago having consistently exceeded their limit of bluefin tuna for decades, by a huge margin. Expect to see "scientific" fishing of tuna in the next decade.
posted by awfurby at 5:12 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There isn't enough anything for every human on earth.
posted by crazylegs at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nobody seems willing to enforce international treaties. People have tried for years to make this happen, but it doesn't. At this point, vigilanteeism is all we have. Given that it is as non-violent as it can be, I think this is necessary.
I don't really even get why I'm supposed to care. The whales they go after aren't even endangered. There are something like 100k Minke whales out there, and the Japanese take a few hundred a year.
Either scientists are unduly alarmist about the state of the biosphere, or it is time to undertake drastic action. Which is it?
I'm not aware of any scientists who say the hunting of a few hundred Minke whales is going to destroy the environment.
Nobody here is saying he's good PR. We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling.
Yeah but like I said, it's not clear why people should care at all. and furthermore, he doesn't actually seem to be very good at it. I think he's more interested in making money off reality TV rights or whatever.
There aren't enough fish or whales in the sea for every human on earth.
That doesn't mean that people should take zero fish/whales out of the sea.
posted by delmoi at 5:14 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


True but if we eat tuna, why not porpoise

It's pretty much well known that people object to that because dolphins exhibit high degrees of intelligence. You seem to be playing around here.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:14 PM on February 13, 2012


Maybe people don't eat them so much but they must still have some monetary value - a similar case in point is the unfortunate Japanese Sea Lion.
posted by unliteral at 5:14 PM on February 13, 2012


True but if we eat tuna, why not porpoise. It seems that diversifying our catch and diet might allow for a more sustainable harvest of tuna.

Have you literally not read a single goddamn thing about the problem of overfishing?
posted by odinsdream at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whales are amazing creatures that we're about to lose for the stupidest of reasons; macho nationalism and apathy.

I seriously doubt the small Japanese whale hunt is a bigger threat than ocean acidification from AGW, pollution and general overfishing. Many whale species are doing much better than two decades ago. Many are in better shape than some of the species available in restaurants everywhere.
posted by humanfont at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


save whales (which possibly won't exist by then, and if they do, it will be a miracle)

Could you please expand on this a little? Do you think Japanese and Norwegian whaling is going to drive whales to extinction? Or something like climate change effecting krill?

The whalers, after all, only take a few species, so it would be hard to argue that they could be responsible for the demise of animals they don't kill, and of the species they take, the number seems to be sustainable to the best anyone can tell.

For the record, I'm totally against whaling, mainly because of the cruelty involved, and that's why I'm against Sea Shepherd also.
posted by smoke at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


crazylegs, I disagree with you. There are indeed enough resources for every human on earth, provided the resources are divided equitably. We have to remember that if people are starving, or if human consumption of resources is depleting animal populations, etc., it's because of industrial/consumer culture. If resources were reallocated fairly (which might mean giving up arid the American Sun Belt or the entire province of Alberta) we could probably get by okay.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:19 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I missed the part where the kids on the playground were trying to eradicate "Shamu" and his entire species from the face of the Earth

On this analogy, Paul Watson is one man fighting twenty toddlers. This is now within Metafilter's area of expertise.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


danny the boy: "so you like that they goad a nation that doesn't even really like whale meat into a defensive face-saving position, rather than actually making meaningful progress in preventing whales from being hunted?"

Uh...
Just my luck: they're out of the whale ovary. I get me a big, juicy, red-meat whale steak. I get some whale heart too. And, of course, the sea pineapple, which comes with a little dipping bowl of su, rice-wine vinegar. I'm living. And what more fitting an end than whale ice cream, made with green-tea powder and whale morsels? Mmm, no?

Sea pineapple, good. Whale heart, bad. The ice cream, I don't remember.

I want to know what kind of whale I've eaten. Eva-san talks to the boss.

"Minke. A sort of small baleen."

I want to know what kind of whale makes for the best grub. Eva-san talks to the boss. He makes a forlorn gesture to a poster on the wall that pictures all the species of whales in the sea, and, forlornly, he expounds awhile.

The great blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived, is by far the best, he says. But, as it's considered one of the world's most endangered species, it has been unobtainable for more than 35 years. I feel for the guy.
Apparently whale meat sushi is so good it's criminal, too.
posted by mullingitover at 5:25 PM on February 13, 2012


one man fighting twenty toddlers.

Sounds like a fair fight.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:25 PM on February 13, 2012


If I could interrupt the arguments on the value of whales over human life and vice-versa for moment, I'd be interested in info on why the Japanese continue to flaunt the various laws created to protect whales and fisheries. Is there a great demand that cannot be met if they scaled backed? And why continue to hunt for whale meat if no one wants it? Is this like bull-fighting in which a 'cultural practice' is perpetuated out of defensiveness?
posted by Partario at 5:28 PM on February 13, 2012


so you like that they goad a nation that doesn't even really like whale meat into a defensive face-saving position, rather than actually making meaningful progress in preventing whales from being hunted?

This is really an over-simplification of the issue, and really overstating Paul Watson's effectiveness.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:28 PM on February 13, 2012


It's pretty much well known that people object to that because dolphins exhibit high degrees of intelligence. You seem to be playing around here.

So do the pacific octopuses and pigs but we eat them. I'm not playing around, I think we've let ourselves be talked into a total ban on all whaling forever based on propaganda and the fact that the food had become unfamiliar.

Have you literally not read a single goddamn thing about the problem of overfishing?

I've read quite a bit. I don't think it is realistic to expect a total ban on fishing. We need decreased catch limits, expanded no-fishing areas and a comprehensive global management plan for the oceans. If you want to manage the fisheries you have to manage the populations of predators like dolphins, killer whales and other cetaceans. Regulated commercial harvesting would be a possible element of that strategy.
posted by humanfont at 5:29 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


"We have to remember that if people are starving, or if human consumption of resources is depleting animal populations, etc., it's because of industrial/consumer culture."

[at the risk of derailing...]

Our current population level is itself utterly dependent on industrial culture. There's no way the planet could support 7 billion humans without high-tech agriculture, urban technology, petroleum, etc.

Consumer culture makes it all worse, sure. But I've heard this argument for many, many years, and nobody has yet been able to convince me that 7 billion people don't cause more damage than 1 billion people.
posted by crazylegs at 5:31 PM on February 13, 2012


KokuRyu: "This is really an over-simplification of the issue, and really overstating Paul Watson's effectiveness."

I said two things.

1. Japanese people don't even like whale that much. From all the Japanese people I've talked to, whale is nostalgic/nationalistic food. It's not eaten in large amounts and isn't a significant portion of anyone's diet. You... more or less said so yourself in this thread? So I'm not sure why you're disagreeing with that portion? I'm of the opinion that whaling would die out within a generation on its own.

2. Paul Watson is doing the opposite of making meaningful progress against whaling. He's either entirely clueless about how effective his tactics are, or more likely in my opinion, he doesn't actually care about stopping Japanese whaling. Do you mean to say I am overstating his effectiveness when I say he is not-at-all effective?
posted by danny the boy at 5:38 PM on February 13, 2012


Just to dwell on human drama for a moment more, (before thread's the sea creature level rises)...

The question of whether radical agitators get a pass for being strategic blowhards, or whether they are just part of the problem, came to a terrifically perplexing keynote event at the ELAW conference in Eugene in 2001. Watson did his charming asshole thing and then told a tale of looking in a angry whale's eyes and communicating in a transcendent way unknown to our death-driven industrial civilization, raising a standing ovation. But the testosterone was not done for the evening. Following him was Ward Churchill who, after calling the names of broken treaties and government dishonesty, called out Watson as a liar for fabricating an encounter with a Oglala Lakota elder at Wounded Knee who supposedly naturalized Watson as an Oglala with an honorary name. The elder referenced in the fabricated encounter was with Churchill's father.

After the keynote, and Watson's retort, and Churchill's retort once or twice over some of the eco-community in the dinner hall were literally chanting "fight! fight! fight!" The college kid moderating had no idea what to do. The whole 2 hour confrontation is online.

The next night we had the soothing tones of Terry Tempest Williams and all was defused.
posted by ioesf at 5:44 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Basically my position on this is: you can feel righteous and angry and have no positive effect (and realistically, a negative effect) or you can be pragmatic and actually have an impact.

Unfortunately, the pragmatic route doesn't allow you to tell romantic tales about how you can't believe you're the only one who is willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the evil Japanese.
posted by danny the boy at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ward Churchill going after someone for making shit up? Pot, kettle, etc.

(I love me some Ward but never let it be said he doesn't have a fast and loose way with the facts.)
posted by docgonzo at 5:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]




Look, if you say something is horrible and should be stopped, and I come up with an example of something else that is even more horrible that should be stopped, that automatically invalidates your argument. Tighten up, people.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:51 PM on February 13, 2012


And for what? An animal.

We are animals.

Whales have family and mourn as well. It's not like they're picking people to sacrifice to the great Whale Gods at random (and no one has actually murdered anyone.)
posted by Malice at 5:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Great whales CAN NEVER BE COMMERCIALLY viable. They live waaay too long and breed waaay too slowly. They are not fish.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:53 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ward Churchill going after someone for making shit up? Pot, kettle, etc.

Maybe I didn't express it clearly, but yeah, this was the snake eating its tail, which is why I brought it up. The whole "we need the exaggerating agitator" framework comes apart when suddenly both sides are exaggerating agitators. Decent drama, though.
posted by ioesf at 5:55 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Consumer culture makes it all worse, sure. But I've heard this argument for many, many years, and nobody has yet been able to convince me that 7 billion people don't cause more damage than 1 billion people.

So what is the solution? The people are here. Birth rates are declining and the population is stabilizing. The only thing we can do is change consumption habits.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2012


Industrial whaling is a weird, vestigial industry that really only plays a part as a bargaining chip in Japan's foreign policy.

this is loathsome if true
posted by Greener Backyards at 6:04 PM on February 13, 2012


Is it permissible to regard Paul Watson as a self-aggrandizing asshole AND think that regardless, he's doing the Lord's work?

I can get why pro-Watson people get so worked up - they believe that he's doing something that's absolutely necessary. And I tend to agree, so I can't claim to be unbiased. What I'm having a harder time understanding is where the obviously deep passion against Watson is coming from - so deep that it's bleeding into what looks like actual support for whaling because Watson happens to be a jerk. I can understand finding him a racist shithead - I thought he was going to don KKK robes during the Makah whale hunt in Washington State in the late '90s, burning a cross in Neah Bay or something (not to mention his comments regarding Newfoundlanders, which I take personally given that half my family either lives there or can trace back to there easily).

But I'm noting some of the comments here are going beyond that to support whaling and to claim that those who don't support whaling aren't valuing human lives highly enough - or at the very least to imply that Watson's shitheadedness outweighs the slaughter of whales. It's an interesting kind of human exceptionalism, a secularized form of "filling the earth and subduing it", it seems.
posted by jhandey at 6:06 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would rather see a few humans die than a few whales. Humans are easy to replace.

You'll volunteer, then? Wait, I know. I'll choose one of your friends at random ...


Yes, if I ever go so far out of my way as to be in the middle of the arctic ocean doing my level best to drive a whole mammalian suborder into extinction, please do the right thing and shoot me in the head.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


jhandey: "What I'm having a harder time understanding is where the obviously deep passion against Watson is coming from"

I'll spell it out for you. I want to see whaling disappear as a thing, and I see this jackass getting a lot of attention that is actively harming the cause he's supposed to be championing.

He's playing the role of the foreign interest telling the Japanese people what to do. If you know anything about not just human nature in general, but Asian politics and culture specifically, you would know that this is probably the best way to make sure you never get what you want. Good job buddy, keep on polemicizing this into a matter or national pride. That'll help.

On top of all this, he's taking millions of dollars of funding that could oh I don't know, off the top of my head, go towards a PR campaign that convinces a population that is already somewhat predisposed to giving up the stuff and you know what he does with it instead? BUYS A FLASHY BOAT AND IMMEDIATELY CRASHES IT INTO A WHALING SHIP, FOR NO REASON, GENERATE SYMPATHY FOR WHALERS
posted by danny the boy at 6:23 PM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


OTOH, statements such as "Japanese whalers are flagrantly violating international treaties" are just wrong. They haven't (been caught) fishing inside other countries territorial waters, or in internationally-decreed sanctuaries or exclusion ones.

This is not correct. The Japanese have indeed been caught whaling in Australian whale sanctuaries, established in Australian territorial waters. See, for example Humane Society International Inc v Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd [2008] FCA 3 (PDF).

Part of the reason Sea Shepherd exists is because the Australian Government has comprehensively failed to protect whales in its own whale sanctuaries.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's playing the role of the foreign interest telling the Japanese people what to do. If you know anything about not just human nature in general, but Asian politics and culture specifically, you would know that this is probably the best way to make sure you never get what you want. Good job buddy, keep on polemicizing this into a matter or national pride.

The Sea Shephard folks and their supporters also resort to racist tropes dating back to WWII. Enlightened White Civilization Fights the Yellow Monkey Men!
posted by KokuRyu at 6:29 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sea Shepherd should be more kawaii. Instead of a batman boat, they should float something resembling this.
posted by panaceanot at 6:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ward Churchill calling someone else out as a fake? Hmmmm."

It's assholes all the way down.
posted by docgonzo at 6:40 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Er, not you, jhandey!)
posted by docgonzo at 6:41 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Sea Shephard folks and their supporters also resort to racist tropes dating back to WWII. Enlightened White Civilization Fights the Yellow Monkey Men!

Here's Sea Shepherd's take on that allegation.

Tl;dr - SS hates whalers, whatever nationality they are. They hate Japanese whalers because they are whalers, not because they are Japanese.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:48 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Humans are easy to replace.

That is a fucked up comment
posted by Hoopo at 6:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Sea Shepard exists to get ratings for a tv show by exploiting a common western taboo. This exploitation drives the ratings to enable ads. The ads sell mostly useless and unnecessary crap. They are the Komen foundation of environmental advocacy. They must be stopped.
posted by humanfont at 6:57 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


They must be stopped.

I propose we put together a small navy and follow them around.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:01 PM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Sea Shepard exists to get ratings for a tv show by exploiting a common western taboo. This exploitation drives the ratings to enable ads. The ads sell mostly useless and unnecessary crap.

The organisation now called Sea Shepherd was established in 1977. The TV show that you refer to is, I assume, is Whale Wars, which premiered in 2008.

So, I can only conclude that SS was doing something that' getting ratings for TV shows' for the three decades preceding Whale Wars.

There are plenty of valid arguments against SS, but this isn't one of them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:05 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, I can only conclude that SS was doing something that' getting ratings for TV shows' for the three decades preceding Whale Wars.

Sorry, hit post before I finsihed editing. Should read:

"So, I can only conclude that SS was doing something other that than 'getting ratings for TV shows' for the three decades preceding Whale Wars."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:07 PM on February 13, 2012


There are only 1000 blue whales left. I don't care what tropes they use or how shamless they are or how offensive they get. At this point they have my go ahead to attach RPGs to those jet skis.
posted by clarknova at 7:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


clarknova, do you have any info on the hunting of blue whales by the Japanese? I'd be very interested to read it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The IWC says that in 2010, Japan caught 445 whales, of which 290 were minke (least concern status, with an estimate of 760k population), 50 Brydes whales (Data-deficient conservation status, estimated 100k population), 100 Sei whales (endangered, with 80k population), 3 sperm whales (vulnerable status, 1m/1000k population), and 2 fin whales (Endangered, 100k population).

So... blue whales can rest safe, even without RPG-mounted jetskis.
posted by CrystalDave at 7:53 PM on February 13, 2012


The Sea Shepard exists to get ratings for a tv show by exploiting a common western taboo.

Bear in mind this is a man who's sunk more than a few pirate whalers, destroyed an entire whale processing plant on shore, and fought a Norweigian destroyer with an unarmed tramp steamer, in actual combat - and won. Years before the TV show.

He's not into the subtleties - killing whales is wrong to him in the way killing unarmed people for food is wrong. That's the beginning and end for him and his crew... lately, he's been playing nice, going for publicity rather than the kill. He's behaving for TV.

Once the TV show ends, he will undoubtedly step it back up... the hope is, perhaps this way, the "pacifist" way, will get results and he won't have to go back to the old-school Sea Shepherd Society strategies of destruction and conflict. He will never deliberately take a human life, tho, histrionics about an incapacitated ship, that's part of a well equipped fleet, not withstanding.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:26 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


called out Watson as a liar for fabricating an encounter with a Oglala Lakota elder at Wounded Knee who supposedly naturalized Watson as an Oglala with an honorary name. The elder referenced in the fabricated encounter was with Churchill's father.
Didn't ward Churchill fabricate his Native ancestry? From Wikipedia:
In a statement dated May 9, 2005, and posted on its website, the United Keetoowah Band initially said, "The United Keetoowah Band would like to make it clear that Mr. Churchill IS NOT a member of the Keetoowah Band and was only given an honorary 'associate membership' in the early 1990s because he could not prove any Cherokee ancestry." The tribe said that all of Churchill's "past, present and future claims or assertions of Keetoowah 'enrollment,' written or spoken, including but not limited to; biographies, curriculum vitae, lectures, applications for employment, or any other reference not listed herein, are deemed fraudulent by the United Keetoowah Band."[24]
He claims to be something like 1/16th Cherokee, and at other times 1/8th muscogee/creek on his father's side. But the Lakota Indians were originally around the great lakes, while the creek were around the Mississippi. So I mean not only are his Indian credentials fabricated, his made up Indian ancestors were from a totally different region as the one he claimed was his father in that anecdote! Hilarious.
What I'm having a harder time understanding is where the obviously deep passion against Watson is coming from - so deep that it's bleeding into what looks like actual support for whaling because Watson happens to be a jerk.
Because he's being such a dick that it makes people empathize with the whalers. Especially the whiny, petulant "wah, they sprayed us with water while all we were trying to do was disable their boat!"

I would certainly have a problem if the Japanese were hunting these whales to extinction, but that doesn't seem to be the case. They're only going after one species, of which there are about 700k individuals. I haven't seen anyone come up with any numbers to indicate that the Japanese are actually hunting these whales to extinction. He seems to be motivated purely by the same drive that motivates people who bomb animal testing labs and the like. Yet, a ton of people in this thread seem to take it as a given that they are somehow causing all whales to go extinct.

It stands to reason that those kind of people do harm to people who want to do things like stop global warming and other serious environmental problems by acting like total nut jobs. So I don't see any reason not to dislike him. I don't see any reason why there should be no whaling, so long as levels are sustainable. And I don't get why there is so much universal hatred towards whaling, compared to say, pig farming or testing on monkeys or whatever.
There are only 1000 blue whales left. I don't care what tropes they use or how shamless they are or how offensive they get. At this point they have my go ahead to attach RPGs to those jet skis.
None of which are being killed by the Japanese. You understand that, right?

Seriously, it does seem like a lot of people don't understand that the Japanese are only hunting non-endangered whales.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing I have learned about America is that EVERYONE is 1/16th Cherokee.
posted by Artw at 8:29 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nobody here is saying he's good PR. We're saying he's good at stopping Japanese whaling.

Is there any actual, reputable, independent evidence that he's "good" at stopping Japanese whaling? Because it looks like they're still catching whales. Such data would have to show a causal link between his actions and "stopping Japanese whaling."

Sea Shepherd Society strategies of destruction and conflict. He will never deliberately take a human life

Dude is throwing acid bombs. The things he's doing could constitute reckless endangerment.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:36 PM on February 13, 2012


Dude does something illegal to stop other people doing something illegal. Seems like they deserve each other.
posted by dazed_one at 8:38 PM on February 13, 2012


His thought were red thoughts: "The Japanese have indeed been caught whaling in Australian whale sanctuaries, established in Australian territorial waters. See, for example Humane Society International Inc v Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd [2008] FCA 3 (PDF)."

That case never claimed that whales were caught in Australian territorial waters. It does say that they were found guilty (by Australia) of hunting whales in the Australian EEZ and Australian Whale Sanctuary - neither of which is internationally recognised.

Only 5 countries - Australia, UK, NZ, France, & Norway - recognise it as part of Australia's EEZ and a whale sanctuary. The international community - including the US, and the IWC and UN - don't recognise either the EEZ or Australian Whale Sanctuary (outside the bit that's within the 12nm territorial waters).

Which is why I said "They haven't (been caught) fishing inside other countries territorial waters, or in internationally-decreed sanctuaries or exclusion [z]ones".
posted by Pinback at 8:40 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude is throwing acid bombs.

The acid bombs in question are non-corrosive and non-toxic. They just smell terrible. I suspect you knew this. Shame.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pinback - Isn't the point that they're a signatory party to the International Whaling Commission, by which they've vowed only to whale for "scientific" purposes? It's pretty clear their "research" whaler vessels are anything but.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 PM on February 13, 2012


I suspect you knew this. Shame.

That is really obnoxious
posted by Hoopo at 8:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously, it does seem like a lot of people don't understand that the Japanese are only hunting non-endangered whales.

No. They are hunting Sei whales, Balaenoptera borealis and fin whales, Balaenoptera physalus, which are on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES)2001 Redlist as Endangered. They just aren't catching very many.

The worry about blue whales is that their species was nearly extinguished solely by hunting in the 19th century, that they are still critically endangered, and the very existence of "research whaling" provides a precedent under which whaling nations may in future opt to hunt them. This is not my personal paranoia - this is the first listed threat in the Australian government's Recovery Plan (PDF) for those species.
posted by gingerest at 8:56 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


That case never claimed that whales were caught in Australian territorial waters.

A fair point. I made the mistake of conflating territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:58 PM on February 13, 2012


The acid bombs in question are non-corrosive and non-toxic. They just smell terrible. I suspect you knew this. Shame.

And the broken glass is made of delicate, tasty, tofu!

I tend to think you've left the moral high ground far behind when you've taken to adopting the tactics and behaviors of anti-abortion protesters.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:58 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The japanese whaling industry gives two shits about the population status of the whales they hunt. As evidenced above by taking several endangered and vulnerable species. They take more minke because there are more minke, but I don't doubt for a second that they'd hunt them to near extinction if they could. I mean, does no one not remember what happened with whaling the first time around?

2007 japanese whalers had planned on hunting humpback whales again, even though there are currently only about 20,000 left. They just don't care. This is fortunately one case where they backed down and do not pursue humpbacks. But geebus help me, they would if they could and are still pushing for hunting humpbacks.

There are just so many things wrong with whaling that I'm a bit fluxed by this thread. Hate sea shepherd , fine, but there is no good reason to whale. Its destructive, the meat is poison, its not sustainable, the animals are one of the most intelligent on earth aside from people, the methods they use to kill are extremely cruel and slow. How is this okay?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


So do the pacific octopuses and pigs but we eat them. I'm not playing around, I think we've let ourselves be talked into a total ban on all whaling forever based on propaganda and the fact that the food had become unfamiliar.

Eh; pigs always get trotted out in these discussions, and while they're smart, they're dog smart rather than great ape smart. Octopuses are smart for invertebrates, but compared to mammals, they're about on par with cats (which are below dogs [and I say this as a 'cat person']). As for whales, last I heard they were smart, but not on the level of apes or dolphins, and I'm not sure where minke whales fit into all of this. But I guess my point is the "well we eat pigs!" argument doesn't really work as a defense of eating every other animal regardless of intelligence; you can certainly can draw a line* that puts chimps off limits but permits pigs.

* Personal line (in no particular order): great apes, dolphins (including orcas), elephants, a few parrots, several corvids
posted by Pyry at 9:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I tend to think you've left the moral high ground far behind when you've taken to adopting the tactics and behaviors of anti-abortion protesters.
Well, it depends on what they're protesting. Certainly violent anti-slavery protesters are venerated by history. The question though is whether what the Japanese are doing actually threatens the whale species they hunt, or if Sea Shepard is only doing it out of a "Any killing of whales is morally wrong" type of stance.

If that's the case, I don't really get why so many people say stuff like "he's doing what needs to be done", etc.
The japanese whaling industry gives two shits about the population status of the whales they hunt. As evidenced above by taking several endangered and vulnerable species. They take more minke because there are more minke, but I don't doubt for a second that they'd hunt them to near extinction if they could.
Well, what difference does it make what they want? What matters is what they do, and for now it doesn't appear like they are taking whales in numbers that could damage the populations. In terms of the endangered counts, they took 100 out of 80,000 Sei whales, and 2 out of 100,000 fin whales. Since Sei whales live to about 65 years, it's likely that about 1,230 die naturally every year.

(also random factoid from Wikipedia: Killer whales also attack other whales, including Minke, Fin and Sei whales - It's possible that more whales are killed by Orcas then by humans. They also go after blue whales. There's a table on page 4 of this PDF)
But I guess my point is the "well we eat pigs!" argument doesn't really work as a defense of eating every other animal regardless of intelligence; you can certainly can draw a line* that puts chimps off limits but permits pigs.
I don't know if scientists have a strict hierarchy of animal intelligence. And it would be pretty hard to test the intelligence of a whale. It's pretty dangerous to eat great apes due to disease compatibility, it's suspected that's how AIDS got into the human population. They're also mostly endangered.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on February 13, 2012


We eat other species because we can. We may be a bit squeamish about eating some of them (horses, at least in North America), for cultural reasons, but the intelligence of the species in question is an afterthought at most. We would be eating a lot more insects of this was not true.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:45 PM on February 13, 2012


Having worked aboard the ship, hung out with the crew, had friends spend years aboard, and chauffeured Paul (and Alex) around Jacksonville, FL, for three days, I think I have a pretty good understanding of Paul Watson. That said, I've only seen one episode of Whale Wars, and it was really bad. Two years before the show, I suggested to Paul that he should do an MTV like reality show since his crew was almost all young guys and girls from 18 to 25; Paul suggested a calendar (many of the girls were models and/or just really attractive).

He's definitely a flawed character, immature and prone to putting out hyperbolic press-releases and writing really bad poems (there's scandal too, but what happens aboard tends to stay aboard). BUT he is dedicated and can sometimes come off as profound--the old ALF magazine, BITE BACK, had a good interview with him, of which an expurgated version (the one without the gannett) was published in Satya.

I fully support direct action against those breaking the law, hunting in sanctuaries. Using violence to break a weapon is fine by me and it's not like he's ever been prosecuted for anything (though he's spent time in jail)--despite his grandiosity, he is generally very safe even though it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt; they were lucky to find as soon as they did, the two guys that were lost in the fog for like 6 hours a few years back. I'm not sure how the Farley Mowat is still sea-worthy--she was on her last leg 7 years ago.

But the Sea Shepherd does a lot more--tracking illegal long-liners, putting bounties on the heads of people using live dogs to catch shark, policing the waters around the Galapagos, blocking the ridiculous seal slaughter that doesn't solve the over-fishing problems, etc.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:46 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


The worry about blue whales is that their species was nearly extinguished solely by hunting in the 19th century,

You mean the 20th Century, right? It was the explosive harpoon that did them in.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:48 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, there isn't some list sitting around that ranks all the animals according to intelligence, and the scientists working on animal cognition are the first to qualify that making comparisons across species is very difficult. But still, you can do a rough qualitative grouping by intelligence, where pigs and dogs and cats are smart compared to the bulk of mammals, but don't really show a qualitatively different type of intelligence. On the other hand, everything in my "too smart to eat list" ended up there based on a combination of 'higher' cognitive abilities like insight, tool use, planning, and self-awareness. I'm sympathetic to the argument that these abilities are not really 'higher', just more like our own cognition, and that suffering is suffering; but pending my conversion to veganism, it seems prudent to at least put these groups off limits.
posted by Pyry at 9:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ranking an octopus and a whale according to their intelligence is frankly ridiculous. No matter how intelligent an octopus may be, the species lives for about 2 years, and produce thousands of offspring. We don't know really how long whales live for, and they produce relatively few offspring, meaning it is difficult for stocks to be replenished.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: Ward Churchill -

That was an interesting video. Ward can really hold a room. It seems from what I could dig up that when Ward refers to Wallace Black Elk as his 'father', he was being, well, figurative again.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:56 PM on February 13, 2012


I should point out that, back then, they often got anonymous tips on the Japanese whaling fleets location from US and Australian military planes and ships (though there was talk of planting GPS transponders on the ships as well, which would explain how successful they've become at catching up with the processing ship (Nishin Maru) and the hunter-killer ships over the last five years).

Speaking of animal intelligence, I remember reading a great article about a guy who was looking through a portal at a baby dolphin in one of these outdoor aquariums. He would nod his head and the baby dolphin would do the same, then he'd spin, and it would spin. Finally, bored, he got out a cigarette, took a drag, leaned in close to the window, and exhaled smoke. The baby dolphin swam away only to return, get close to the window, and blow smoke. Evidently it had suckled milk, then blown it out to imitate what they guy had done. Can't say if the stories true (it was either in one of my old Science Digests or in one of my parents Readers Digests), but my cat changed her own litter by dragging a sheet from one end of the house to the other, then stuff it through the small door of a litter-box, then crap on it, bury it, and crap again--she'd gone like 4 or 5 times. I went to change it and was amazed. Suffice it to say that I no longer eat dolphin or cat.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:56 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: Or perhaps you prefer wild-ass vigilante justice?

When the government fails to follow the rule of law, vigilantism enforcement of those laws is sometimes called for. See: Ken Rex McElroy (previously).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


We may be a bit squeamish about eating some of them (horses, at least in North America)

It's true and I don't understand that one at all. Horse is delicious.
posted by Hoopo at 10:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. My tense-agreement went downhill faster than a Churchill/Watson reunion cruise.
posted by whatgorilla at 10:08 PM on February 13, 2012


I can understand disliking Watson as a personality. I don't like him on that level either. But the leap from that to defending or condoning whaling seems huge and, frankly, crazy.

Any industry based on the sort of cruel wholesale slaughter of an animal--especially a mammal--is disgusting and worthy of at least contempt, if not direct action aimed at stopping or slowing the practice.
posted by broadway bill at 10:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ranking an octopus and a whale according to their intelligence is frankly ridiculous. No matter how intelligent an octopus may be, the species lives for about 2 years, and produce thousands of offspring. We don't know really how long whales live for, and they produce relatively few offspring, meaning it is difficult for stocks to be replenished.

The intelligence question reflects on whether we're trying to protect something because it is a moral end in itself, or whether the thing is just a resource, a means to other moral ends (e.g., feeding people). Most people seem to feel that there is a level of intelligence where it becomes impermissible to eat an animal, no matter how far away from extinction that animal is; if whales meet this level, then scarcity arguments don't matter.
posted by Pyry at 10:09 PM on February 13, 2012


There were only a few of us who knew what needed to be done back then. Now it's obvious, but now it's far too late. Things have gone past the point where we can shift the balance, and the same cold hard facts that make it clear what needed to happen make clear that it's long past time when it can matter. Everyone called us crazy, every called us criminals and dangerous, but we knew what we knew and that noone who didn't would ever understand in time.

The whales had to be stopped.

I learned about the Cetacean Menace from a thoroughly discredited astronomer I traded drinks with at a dive bar in Anaheim. He told me all these crazy stories and I though he was just a loony old drunk - but when he showed me the photographic plates it was hard to ignore. The stars moving through the night sky over months as WW2 winds down, too slow for any meteor and far too fast to be anything from our solar system. The radio recordings of slow hunting songs and choral odes the planetary genocide. The vast ships disgorging humpbacked star marines into nightime seas far from any human eyes.

I became aware of the global underground of people who had discovered this shocking and terrible truth about these giant soulless killers - the evidence we shared with each other incontrovertible in aggregate, but never anything that could convince the public or a government to take the needed action. The giant tail marks around a poor corpse splattered on a lonely beach; the water skiers knocked *up* out of the water by a sudden vicious spout of water and devoured whole; the long slow songs of monkey death.

So the Japanese provided our only usable cover. Noone ate whale meat anymore of course, but it was a point of national pride and they weren't about to give it up even if they didn't believe us. So under cover of a ridiculous secret whale meat industry under cover of a ridiculous whale research industry, we went about our lonely mission to save humanity and the world from the vicious whale horde. We knew the world hated us - and for the wrong reasons - but we couldn't let us stop that from what may have been he most important job humans have ever had: killing as many of those murderous fluke flipping beasts of the deep as we could.

We knew that if we could eliminate their command and control we had a chance, so we encouraged navy projects to fill the underwater soundscape with noise and hubbub to interfere with their long range comms. We hunted the best and brightest of their officer class to the polar ice caps and through perfect storms. We lured them into our estuaries and deltas with the promise of human children as prey on bridges, then trapped them there to perish - after they had sung their song of fear and defeat to their comrades still freely operating in the open ocean: psychological warfare aimed directly at the heart of the famously unbreakable whale morale.

We were so close to tipping the scales. We almost kept our home world from the horrific fate these baleen beasts intended. Then the protestors came. Full of good intentions, so fooled by our disguise that they believed what they did was right even as they cast aside humanity's last hope. A fifth column that didn't even know what they betrayed. As they fought what they thought was the good fight, they doomed us all to the world you see around us now.

Good luck brothers and sisters - there is a little land left, and a little hope to eke out a few more years. Make them good ones, for there will be no more now that the whales have won.
posted by freebird at 10:09 PM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


That reaction you feel when the tactics or personalities of an advocate group turns you off to a cause you would normally support -- I believe we call that "not thinking".
posted by eddydamascene at 10:19 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


>Most people seem to feel that there is a level of intelligence where it becomes impermissible to eat an animal

Most people that you happen to know, perhaps. As this radio program points out, humans eat from the protein pool that's available to them, and stick with that for generations.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:01 PM on February 13, 2012


That reaction you feel when the tactics or personalities of an advocate group turns you off to a cause you would normally support -- I believe we call that "not thinking".
Well, it's also likely that someone might "not think" about an issue at all until they actually look into it. I mean, I didn't know that much about the issue until I looked some of this stuff up, and what I found out seems to indicate it's not a big deal. There may have been a big risk to whales decades ago, but if there is a risk now it doesn't seem to be from the Japanese (or the icelandic, who also hunt whales, apparently)

There's also the other issue, which is that it makes environmentalist as a whole look like nutcases.
posted by delmoi at 11:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's also the other issue, which is that it makes environmentalist as a whole look like nutcases.

Only to the kind of idiot who thinks one black criminal makes all blacks look criminal, and for those people there is no hope. Watson is not the only environmentalist in the world, he is not working with all other environmentalists, and he does not have the support of all other environmentalists. When different people in different organizations operating under different philosophies use different tactics, they are not all somehow magically made the same just because they have somewhat similar goals.
posted by pracowity at 11:56 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude does something illegal to stop other people doing something illegal. Seems like they deserve each other.

Firstly, as others have pointed out, the ICR exploits a legal loophole. So, what they do is not technically illegal. Secondly, what Sea Shepherd do is not just illegal, it is criminal. Illegal != criminal.

Finally, Sea Shepherd aren't just criminal arses, they are counter-productive criminal arses, the only people in the world capable of provoking some sympathy for the ICR.
posted by Skeptic at 12:30 AM on February 14, 2012


Two years before the show, I suggested to Paul that he should do an MTV like reality show since his crew was almost all young guys and girls from 18 to 25; Paul suggested a calendar (many of the girls were models and/or just really attractive) [...] (there's scandal too, but what happens aboard tends to stay aboard)

OK, I think this comprehensively answers the question of "what makes Watson tick". Another Dirty Old Man trawling for young booty, then. Makes sense.
posted by Skeptic at 12:38 AM on February 14, 2012


Just food for thought:

The ratio of brain size to body size is usually a pretty good indicator of intelligence, or at least capability for intelligence. Great whales are the only animals on the planet with a larger brain-to-body-size ratio than humans.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:01 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two years before the show [...]

Poisoning the well
. (He must be wrong about whales because something or other to do with a racy calendar, nudge nudge know what I mean.)
posted by pracowity at 3:09 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paul Watson is one of a microscopic minority of human beings who is actually doing what needs to be done. The rest of us sit in our chairs and call him names, while wishing the nice government would save the planet for us.

It's entirely possible that Paul Watson can be simultaneously a blustering, blowhard, self-aggrandizing attention whore with poor seamanship and leadership abilities, and part of the microscopic minority of human beings who are actually doing what needs to be done. The two categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
posted by thewalrus at 3:44 AM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


kokoryu - only plays a part as a bargaining chip in Japan's foreign policy

It would seem that the importance of Japanese whaling is not about whether they can kill whales this year, but whether they can kill fish stocks in the future. There is a disproportionate amount of resources put into continuing the whale hunt which seems inexplicable when observed in isolation. Indeed it could be argued that the whale issue is a smoke screen that allows the destruction of the tuna stocks to complete.

If Japanese whaling were successfully stopped then there would be an opportunity for campaigners to focus on other fishing practices.

humanfront, eating top level predators (and whales) is not advisable due to high levels of mercury. The best option is to leave the wild populations of fish to recover and eat only sustainable species.

Look, but don't eat!
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


One link to some actual science in the whole damn thread, a load of unqualified and unsupported statements about animal intelligence, whale population dynamics, whale-consumption sociology. This thread is an echo chamber and it makes me sad to read it.
posted by cromagnon at 4:03 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Benny Andajetz: "Great whales are the only animals on the planet with a larger brain-to-body-size ratio than humans."

Are you sure? Wikipedia: Dolphins have the highest brain-to-body weight ratio of all cetaceans.Either octopuses or jumping spiders have the highest for an invertebrate. Humans have a higher brain-to-body weight ratio than any of these animals. ... The tiny shrew, which holds nearly 10% of its body mass in its brain, has the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of any known animal.
posted by Akeem at 4:32 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Skeptic: “Firstly, as others have pointed out, the ICR exploits a legal loophole. So, what they do is not technically illegal.”

The government can confiscate your property in the name of national security; so if I claim I'm from the government and steal your computer, telling you it's "in the name of national security," is that me 'exploiting a legal loophole?' No. It's theft, plain and simple, and the fact that I am lying about the nature of the theft doesn't change that. Everyone knows, in Japan and everywhere else, that these "research vessels" are no such thing.
posted by koeselitz at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2012


One link to some actual science in the whole damn thread, a load of unqualified and unsupported statements about animal intelligence, whale population dynamics, whale-consumption sociology. This thread is an echo chamber and it makes me sad to read it.

Do you have any citations for this statement?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Argue about his methods all you want, but you are going to have to do more than state that Watson is "an extremist", because Watson would generally agree with you on that point.

He has made it exceedingly clear that he feels that he has to take an extreme stand on specific issues relating to marine mammals; while Greenpeace can take their moderate view, he has decided on a different path.

Like I said, you can criticize his methods, but to simply call him out for being "extreme" is hardly a point in your favour.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:19 AM on February 14, 2012


koeselitz I'm afraid that you labour under a complete misapprehension of what is law in general and international law in particular.

If "the government" seizes your computer "in the name of national security", you can go to court. If "the government" can't prove a sound legal basis for infringing your property rights, it will have to give you your computer back plus possibly hefty damages. Eventually, the particular individuals who decided to steal your computer under false pretences may face criminal charges.

Of course, it may be so that the law has been written so that it allows "the government" to confiscate your computer pretty much arbitrarily, which would make this theft perfectly legal. In most democratic countries this would be difficult because of your constitutional rights, but this is also the reason why "government" should be divided into three different branches, independent from each other: legislative, which writes the law, executive, which executes the law, and judiciary, which judges whether the law is being correctly followed. The checks and balances between those three branches of government are the best safeguard to your rights.

International law, on the other hand, is a network of agreements which sovereign states have made with each other in order to facilitate cooperation. Crucially, though, each sovereign state remains, well, sovereign, and is bound by those agreements only as far as it accepts them. Any sovereign state is in fact free to denounce a treaty it is no longer comfortable with.

In fact, Japan was not immediately bound by the commercial whaling moratorium because it filed an objection when the International Whaling Commission passed the moratorium. It only withdrew it when it saw that "scientific whaling" provided a valid loophole. But Norway and Iceland still whale commercially: Norway because it has maintained its objection until now, and Iceland because it quite simply left the IWC, and only re-entered it under reservation to the moratorium. Finally, several countries, including the US, also allow "aboriginal subsistence whaling".

Immoral != illegal != criminal
posted by Skeptic at 8:21 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


humanfront, eating top level predators (and whales) is not advisable due to high levels of mercury. The best option is to leave the wild populations of fish to recover and eat only sustainable species.

There are no sustainable species at the moment. Also whales are not fish. Perhaps we should hunt them as a mechanism for bioremediation. The whales concentrate the mercury, pcbs and cadmium in their tissues and then we humanely kill them at a predetermined age or based on contaminant levels from tissue samples. Then we take the contaminated corpses to a processing facility. Since the contanination makes for a high probability of madness or cancer within the animal we are actually reducing its suffering. Overtime as cadmium and mercury levels drop in harvested animals we will have mechanism to observe and track our progress in combating these pollutants. We might even be able to genetically modify some whale species to be better at helping us with our bioremediation efforts. Suppose we could create a stomach enzyme or gut bacteria to let the baleen whales eat plastic. We save the whales and clean up the pacific garbage patch at the same time.
posted by humanfont at 8:35 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are no sustainable species at the moment.

Yeah, this is kind of where I am. I am vegetarian, but I always have friends and associates and pediatricians and doctors on TV telling us "fish is so good for you!" but, but, but ...

Anyway, do you have any good links for this "no sustainable species" claim, because I would like the ammo. For example, what do you say to the fellow who says, "but what about the Mulloway?"
posted by mrgrimm at 9:16 AM on February 14, 2012


Suppose we could create a stomach enzyme or gut bacteria to let the baleen whales eat plastic.

You see how they work? They have us making them more powerful even as they conquer the planet. Soon it will be all "hey, they could really use nuclear launch tubes! Because of...environment!" Devious, manipulative, malevolent taskmasters, these cetacean devils.
posted by freebird at 9:19 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Poisoning the well. (He must be wrong about whales because something or other to do with a racy calendar, nudge nudge know what I mean.)

Hardly. Some, perhaps most, great human achievements have been motivated by, well, nookie. That hardly "poisons the well", at least not among reasonably mature individuals. Watson is wrong because, as others point out, he's putting human lives at risk (both the whalers' and his own crew's) without any discernible benefit to the whales and even, arguably, to their detriment, if his tactics make Japan and others less likely to stop whaling. If the only beneficiary is Watson's ego, that's bad enough, even leaving his dick out of the equation.
posted by Skeptic at 9:26 AM on February 14, 2012


Devious, manipulative, malevolent taskmasters, these cetacean devils.

For the last time freebird, don't expect us to take pity on you just because Stubb left you floating in the water for a few hours. He warned you the first time we pulled you out of the water to hold on tighter the next time. Look at the Captain over there a whale bit off his leg one time, but you don't see him going on about it. Oh sure occasionally he's all like "a sovereign to the man who raises Moby Dick, arr the white whale," but that's just motivational nonsense.
posted by humanfont at 10:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you sure? Wikipedia: Dolphins have the highest brain-to-body weight ratio of all cetaceans.Either octopuses or jumping spiders have the highest for an invertebrate. Humans have a higher brain-to-body weight ratio than any of these animals. ... The tiny shrew, which holds nearly 10% of its body mass in its brain, has the highest brain-to-body mass ratio of any known animal.

Sorry. That was an early-morning, quick piece of remembered shorthand propaganda from my hardcore "Save the Whales" days. Apparently it's not technically true.

The real interesting part about whale brains is not only are they big, they have a big cerebral cortex - just like ours. They also have a kind of neuron that has only been found in humans, whales, apes and elephants - all animals considered to be intelligent.

(Some scientists have also conjectured that whales are the only animals to have made the transformation from sea animal to land animal and back again.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2012


Paul Watson is one of the very few actual heroes living today. When there are a dozen Paul Watsons operating on every environmental front in the world, we might have a fighting chance to get through this century without killing the planet/ourselves.
posted by kenlayne at 10:53 AM on February 14, 2012


Paul Watson is one of the very few actual heroes living today. When there are a dozen Paul Watsons operating on every environmental front in the world, we might have a fighting chance to get through this century without killing the planet/ourselves.

Yeah, that's the thought that went through my mind when my wife was assaulted outside her workplace by one of these "heroes".

It's all fun and games until they are firebombing your colleagues cars.

I'm not the first to notice the hypocrisy surrounding animal activists love of violence in the name of ending violence.

The right has the Anti-Abortionists, the left the ARA - two stupid peas in a tightly wrapped pod of violence and moral relativism.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


The real interesting part about whale brains is not only are they big, they have a big cerebral cortex - just like ours. They also have a kind of neuron that has only been found in humans, whales, apes and elephants - all animals considered to be intelligent.

That sounds kind of anthropomorphist.
posted by humanfont at 12:45 PM on February 14, 2012


>That reaction you feel when the tactics or personalities of an advocate group turns you off to a cause you would normally support -- I believe we call that "not thinking".

And persisting in the same old behavior while hoping for a different outcome -- I believe we call that "insanity".

I frankly don't care about Paul Watson's character. What I care about is that his actions feed into and support the current inexcusable status quo, and have been doing so for years.

You can't effect change by doing the same old things. We've had more than enough time to see that Watson's actions haven't gained us any ground in actually stopping Japanese whaling. He's either insane, or he's actually fine with the current long-running situation, a situation that continues at the expense of the whales. Either way, I'd argue that his actions are more of a liability to the cause than a benefit.

In a situation such as this where violent confrontation is already the well-established norm, you are not going to sway anyone's opinions nor change anyone's actions by simply adding more of the same violence. Doing so just plays into the very well-established, well-framed roles that profit the status quo.
posted by PsychoKick at 1:44 PM on February 14, 2012


That sounds kind of anthropomorphist.

Really? Why so?

From our study of the human brain, we've determined to a large degree that the cerebral cortex is the center of cognitive reasoning. If we see a large cerebral cortex in another species, is it "humanist" to start with the assumption that that animal has, at least, the equipment for being more intelligent than animals with smaller cortexes?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2012


The real interesting part about whale brains is not only are they big, they have a big cerebral cortex - just like ours. They also have a kind of neuron that has only been found in humans, whales, apes and elephants - all animals considered to be intelligent.
Spindle Neurons. They could simply be an adaptation to having a large brain, not necessarily a smart brain.
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh; pigs always get trotted out in these discussions

Belated: I see what you did there, Pyry.
posted by gingerest at 2:52 PM on February 14, 2012



Yay! US is pissing all over the Kyoto Protocol, this means we are perfectly justified in blowing up factories in the states that spew out pollution. It is up to *us* people! (j/k, don't bother replying to it :) )

So to sum up:

1. Japan signed IWC, but uses a loophole to whale, which still exists
2. Norway and Iceland just whale.
3. Japan mostly hunt Minke (low), but has occasionally got Sei (medium).
4. Whale populations of all those have improved in the last decade
5. Japan has not (yet) been whaling in recognised reserves (even though Australia would like to call it that)
6. If what Japan is doing is not illegal, it is... questionable?
7. Paul Watson, may or may not, be doing anything useful.
8. Paul Watson is doing something illegal, but it is possibly justified?
9. The Whale restaurant in Tokyo is tasty.

Is that about it? Did I miss anything?
posted by lundman at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


The leviathan rises out of the deep and the water explosed as it spouts. The rest of its pod follows. Huge beasts that could swallow a man up in their maw cut through the ocean waves. The swells make aiming difficult. You have a moment as it comes into alignment. You fire the enormous harpoon from the cannon. A ton of metal drags the line out. The harpoon streaks and shrinks in the distance. The barbed lance strikes into your quary and explodes. The great whale spouts blood, men cheer. The beast bellows and dies. The pod vanishes. Long hours remain to pull the creature in. Longer still to butcher the blubber and meat from the bones. Though the ocean is red all around the ship there remains barrels of blood to spill. Yet next morning the ocean will be just as blue and the horizon just as empty. The air will smell of diesel and salt spray as it did before. The sea birds will not cast judgement, the swells will role on. Behold that mighty whale, the world did not pause with his passing. Know that even less notice shall be taken by the world at your own passing.
posted by humanfont at 5:46 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whale oil is carbon neutral.
posted by delmoi at 7:50 PM on February 14, 2012


I was surprised there wasn't more support for the whales here. One does not have to like Paul Watson or Sea Shepherd to support this cause. I was assigned to document their first Antarctic campaign. We went from New Zealand to Tasmania, then south to Antarctica, visited the french station at Dumont d'Urville, and went back to New Zealand. We did not encounter the japanese whalling fleet (and even if we had, the old Farley Mowat was not fast enough to catch them). We saw many whales. Those are very isolated seas, and I am happy someone cares enough to go out there to try to protect the whales. So far there have been no human casualties. PR campaigns have been less successful than the harassment of the whalers by Sea Shepherd. I am certain if Sea Shepherd caused enough damage to a whaling ship (by ramming or other means) they would rescue everyone should they need to be rescued. Their intentions are clearly not to harm humans but to protect whales. Safety was taken seriously aboard the ship. After going to Antarctica I photographed a Sea Shepherd Seal Campaign in Canada, where we ended up running into Timothy Treadwell. I feel strongly that endangered species must be protected, and in Antarctic seas there is nobody else actively involved in doing so.[images from the 1st Antarctic campaign]
posted by ig at 9:02 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not supporting Paul Watson/Sea Sheppard is not the same as not supporting the whales.

We went from New Zealand to Tasmania, then south to Antarctica, visited the french station at Dumont d'Urville, and went back to New Zealand. We did not encounter the japanese whalling fleet (and even if we had, the old Farley Mowat was not fast enough to catch them). We saw many whales.

Wow sounds like an effective use of money and time. I'm glad you all enjoyed your whale watching cruise and I'm sure you all felt very good about yourselves afterwards.
posted by the_artificer at 9:29 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


cruise? really?

it was the first time Sea Shepherd went to Antarctica. I was hired as a photographer to document this campaign for a magazine. After their first campaign, Sea Shepherd realized they needed more and faster ships, a helicopter, etc. The next campaigns were more successful.

I also did not say one had to support Sea Shepherd or Paul Watson.

How I felt afterwards has nothing to with what is being discussed here.
posted by ig at 10:05 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Those are some great images ig.
posted by freebird at 10:42 PM on February 14, 2012


That sounds kind of anthropomorphist.

Really? Why so?

From our study of the human brain, we've determined to a large degree that the cerebral cortex is the center of cognitive reasoning. If we see a large cerebral cortex in another species, is it "humanist" to start with the assumption that that animal has, at least, the equipment for being more intelligent than animals with smaller cortexes?


He's right, Benny Andajetz. "Anthropomorphist" does not mean "humanist". That is an anthropromorphic statement.

Of course, "Anthropomorphist" does not mean "wrong", either.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2012


Wow sounds like an effective use of money and time. I'm glad you all enjoyed your whale watching cruise and I'm sure you all felt very good about yourselves afterwards.

Just so you know, you're coming across as a really dismissive asshole. ig has some awesome photos to share, not sure what your hangup is about it.
posted by odinsdream at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was surprised there wasn't more support for the whales here. One does not have to like Paul Watson or Sea Shepherd to support this cause.

I think the point is that many people think Watson harms the cause by the way he goes about things. What is your response to the claim of Greenpeace and others on that front?
posted by Ironmouth at 3:37 PM on February 15, 2012


What is your response to the claim of Greenpeace and others on that front?

I honestly don't know if the claim is true. I recall Paul Watson calling Greenpeace "the Avon ladies of the environmental movement", criticizing them for not going to Antarctica while raising a LOT more money in the name of defending whales than Sea Shepherd was able to.

I wish there were other/more groups patrolling Antarctic waters every year and not just Sea Shepherd.

If Sea Shepherd is successful in disrupting whaling activities (and in the last campaigns they seem to be harassing the whaling fleet enough to diminish the number of whales killed), I'm all for it.

Nobody has been killed and the only damage is material up to this point.

A small price to save whales, no?

When I was in the Farley Mowat I was impressed by the number of volunteers willing to die to save whales. That is serious commitment.

Wouldn't more whales be killed yearly in Antarctica if it wasn't for this organization?

I don't see other groups being more effective at this time.

Sea Shepherd seems to be doing something others are not (with very limited resources), and in a manner that is inevitably going to be criticized. However, they have a zero casualty record, and have been successful in raising awareness about something that would otherwise continue going on unnoticed and unstopped.

Until Greenpeace or other groups are able to do more to save whales, what other alternative is there at this time? Lobbying? PR campaigns? Neither will effectively stop whales from getting killed as well as direct action, no?
posted by ig at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I was surprised there wasn't more support for the whales here."

Something that isn't obvious from my previous comments: while I may not "support" whales (at least not in a "rah, rah - go whales!" sense), I'm very much anti-whaling.

The thing is, though, when you get down to it, there's very little reason why I (or anyone) should feel that way beyond the "it's cruel", "we like them", &/or "we anthropomorphise them, so it's like killing people!" arguments. Which are fair enough bases for forming your own opinion, and are reasonable bases for starting and continuing a discussion, but are not good bases for changing other people's opinions.

(FWIW, I'm against it because I personally believe it's pointless and cruel. But that's my opinion…)

Want to argue sustainability? Then there's good independent (i.e. not Japanese / ICR), widely-accepted (by real scientists) evidence that current hunting rates for the major catch (i.e. Minke whales) are sustainable in the long-term - rate of population increase (R) even with hunting is estimated at 0.750~0.815 / yr. There's also equally good evidence that current population levels are "within the historical norm of the species over the last 100,000 years". You can find similar figures for rate of increase for all the other hunted species, which would indicate that they too are at least being hunted 'sustainably', if not yet at their pre-hunting numbers.

Want to argue intelligence? It's a tricky subject and hard to define but, since it's often given as an example of the presence of whale "intelligence", let's take (as someone mentioned above) spindle neurons (aka von Economo Neurons, or VENs). The jury's still out, but they seem to have arisen independently in several different branches of the mammalian family tree - whales & dolphins, horses & rhinos, walruses, hominids (but not other primates), manatees, and elephants. Basically, that's a list of animals with the largest brains and large active bodies. The area where they're found is believed to be associated with emotion, self-awareness, cognitive function, and social relationships - but it's also associated with motor control and homeostasis (internal biological regulation). As I said, the jury's still out whether VEN's indicate "intelligence" - but, personally, I'd have to go with them being an adaptation to allow a particularly dense part of a large brain to control a complex body in a complex environment.

On preview: "A small price to save whales, no? When I was in the Farley Mowat I was impressed by the number of volunteers willing to die to save whales. That is serious commitment."

Do whales need saving? On all the hard numbers I can find, the species that are being hunted are doing fine - which is more than you can say about many other species, marine or otherwise. The biggest threat to their continued existence - intensive industrial-scale whaling by western countries - has been removed. I'll note that that's quite a recent development - up until just a few years before I was born, a whaling station operated less than 100km from where I'm sitting right now. And the last whaling station in my country closed in 1978.

Look, I'm not trying to convince you. I'm not trying to muddy the waters with "facts", like the ICR does. What I do hope I've done, however, is illustrated why it's a much more complex issue than "if you're not for whales, then you're against them".
posted by Pinback at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


A minor mea culpa - in trying to get up-to-date figures for the intrinsic rate of increase of Minke whales in the southern ocean, I misread a couple of papers (including the one I cited). As it turns out, there's no really recent figures available that don't trace back to the ICR in one form or another. So, I'll have to fall back on data from the 80's, which is still typically used for modelling studies (e.g.)

So, the relevant part of my last comment should read: "rate of population increase (R) even with hunting is estimated at 0.750~0.815 / yr is estimated at 6~13% / year."

(Which is actually surprisingly high for a large, long-lived mammal…)
posted by Pinback at 8:32 PM on February 15, 2012


"I was surprised there wasn't more support for the whales here."

Asking Japanese folks (or Norwegians or Icelanders, for that matter) to stop hunting whales because whales are intelligent hasn't worked, and it's not going to work - it seems like a sentimental, ludicrous reason to stop the hunt, given Western culture The best way to limit whaling is to focus on sustainability. Unfortunately, this means that whaling nations are likely going to continue to whale, although at a very small scale.

Besides, much of the whaling that occurs in Japan proper is aimed at supplying aquariums with live dolphins, and this sort of exploitation is certainly not limited to Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on February 16, 2012


much of the whaling that occurs in Japan proper is aimed at supplying aquariums with live dolphins
What! Alert Taiji, surely something can be worked out.
posted by unliteral at 3:23 PM on February 16, 2012






Ocean Giants
posted by homunculus at 9:14 PM on February 22, 2012




> 52-Hertz song of world’s loneliest whale

Man, that kind of hit me hard for some reason.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2012


Man, that kind of hit me hard for some reason.

I so, so so want to make a children's book based on this story called The Loneliest Whale only it would be too depressing.
posted by odinsdream at 2:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older It's a Beauty!   |   Mr. Happy Man Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post