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Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

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‘Anti-Ahab’ Still Saving Whales

9/21/2011 4:33:30 PM

Tags: whaling, oceans, wildlife, seafood, activism, film, Japan, environment, Prospect, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, Keith Goetzman

Captain Paul Watson 

“Save the whales” may have become something of a schoolyard taunt for anti-environmentalists to hurl, but make no mistake: Some activists are still out there, saving whales. Foremost among them is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has harassed, butted, and even boarded whaling ships in its mission to deter illegal whaling.

Sea Shepherd founder and leader Paul Watson is described as an “anti-Ahab” in Prospect by writer Philip Hoare, who explains that the bold group managed to put a large dent in Japan’s whale take last season:

In February, the Japanese fisheries minister announced that Sea Shepherd’s actions, which include boarding whaling ships, forced the curtailment of the 2010-11 season on safety grounds. As a result, many fewer whales were caught. Sea Shepherd put Japan’s catch at 30, compared to the country’s fleet’s self-declared quota of 900. Campaigners quickly claimed a victory in the making.

Loare notes that soon after this, one of Japan’s four major whaling communities was devastated by the tsunami, “knocking out a pillar of the nation’s whaling industry,” the New York Times reported.

It remains to be seen if the one-two punch of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns and the tsunami will have a lasting effect on whaling by Japan, which often skirts legality by falsely claiming to be whaling for scientific reasons. In the meantime, a documentary about Watson and his merry band of whale savers, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, is opening in Germany and heading for U.S. release. View the trailer here:

Sources: Prospect (article available to subscribers only), New York Times, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist 

Image by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. 



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James William Gibson
9/30/2011 3:04:00 PM
We need to recognize what Watson and Sea Shepherd appear to have accomplished--namely won a major victory over the Japanese whaling fleet. Because of Sea Shepherd's deep sense of symbolic or totemic kinship with whales, they have persisted in a strategy of direct confrontation, encountering both serious personal risks and decades of ridicule by many factions of the environmental movement. "Save the Whales" has been repeatedly derided as a pathetic hippy slogan, in contrast to cutting edge movements on climate change and green consumerism. The lessons from Sea Shepherd are two-fold: first, that direct action can work; second, fostering kinship ties with other animals, particularly mammals, can lead to real environmental and cultural change.



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