Ghosties, goblins, and bumping off whales in the night

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1996:

ABERDEEN, Scotland– – The
June 24-28 annual meeting of the
International Whaling Commission might
appropriately open with the ancient Scots
prayer, “God keep us from ghosties and goblins
and things that go ‘bump’ in the night.”
Resurrecting the ghost of whaling
from longboats last done more than 70 years
ago, the Makah tribe of the outermost tip of
the Olympic peninsula in Washington will bid
to claim a subsistance quota on grey whales
and become the first legal whalers along the
Pacific coast of the U.S. mainland since the
whaling station at Point Richmond,
California closed more than 20 years ago.
The Makah will be supported, for reasons
pertaining to political correctness, by Greenpeace
and the U.S. government––and Japan,
whose whaling industry has cultivated a close
relationship with Makah minister of fisheries
Daniel Green.

Attempted negotiations with Green
by representatives of several of the more
aggressive marine mammal protection groups
have gone no further, ANIMAL PEOPLE
understands, than Green asserting he’ll kill
whales if he damned well pleases and the
activists responding, in effect, “Do it and
we’ll kick your butt.”
From Norway, the land whose
skalds apparently invented goblins, came a
May 5 announcement that it will once again
defy the international ban on commercial
whaling in effect since 1986. Norway unilaterally
declared a minke whaling season to
commence on May 21, with a 425-whale
quota, nearly double the 217 whales who
were killed last year, the third year since
commercial whaling resumed in Norwegian
coastal waters. Norway set a quota of 301
whales last year, but was obliged to cut it to
232 after Greenpeace exposed a significant
math error in its official projection of the
minke population.
Greenpeace and the World Wildlife
Fund, who in 1994 agreed in principle that
they don’t oppose commercial whaling, as
part of the price of establishing the Southern
Oceans Whale Sanctuary surrounding
Antarctica, immediately asked U.S.
President Bill Clinton to hit Norway with
trade sanctions––something that Vice
President Al Gore in 1994 virtually promised
Norwegian prime minister Gro Brundtland
would never happen.
On May 17, however, National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
chief James Baker wrote to Norway, “The
United States is deeply opposed to commercial
whaling. The U.S. recognizes that
Norway lodged a formal objection to this
moratorium and therefore is not technically
bound by it,” Baker continued. But Baker
did ask Norway “to join the nations of the
world in refraining from whaling.”
The World Wildlife Fund called
that statement “unbelievably weak, a stunning
capitulation to Norway’s pirate whalers.
Clinton has turned his back on a solemn
commitment to protect the great whales from
senseless slaughter,” WWF continued.
But as in 1993-1994, when Gore
was negotiating a $625 million missile sale
to Norway, there was business at stake. On
February 8, the Norwegian daily newspaper
Afterposten reported that the U.S. is seeking
payment from Norway for military supplies
provided since 1949 via the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization, including trucks,
weapons, ammunition, and communications
equipment. Norwegian defense minister
Joergen Kosmo has reportedly asked his
commanders to start tallying the bill. The
U.S. could in theory forgive a lot of debt in
trade for the lives of whales. That option,
however, might not wash with Congress.
The loudest bump in the night
came from Paul Watson and Lisa Distefano
of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
who were out of touch for a while, then
announced May 13 that, “On the evening of
May 3, 1996, anti-whaling activists
removed the intake valve of the Norwegian
outlaw whaler E l i n – T o r i l, flooding her
engine room and causing extensive mechanical
and electrical damage. Captain Finn-Egil
Odinsen discovered the flooded engine room
in the early morning of May 4. His early
discovery prevented the boat from sinking.
The Elin-Toril was moored close to the
N y b r a e n a, the outlaw whaler sunk by Sea
Shepherd activists Paul Watson, Lisa
Distefano, and Dwight Worker in December
1992. The scuttling brings to three the number
of whaling boats flooded since Norway
decided to ignore the international moratorium
on commercial whaling. Sea Shepherd
activists scuttled the Senet in January 1994.”
Continued the Sea Shepherd
release, “The attacks have forced
Norwegian insurance companies to demand
war insurance payments on all whaling vessels.
In addition, security costs have been
greatly increased. The Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society believes that sinking
vessels engaged in operations that violate the
International Whaling Commission moratorium
on commercial whaling is justified.
Flooding the engine room is considered as
effective as actually sinking vessels. Once
flooded, the engines and electrical systems
have to be completely overhauled.”
The Sea Shepherd action came a
week after Japanese police intercepted 10
tons of whale meat and blubber shipped to
Japan from Norway via Vietnam, disguised
as mackerel––apparently the first of six such
shipments prepared by World Food Inc., of
Clesund, Norway. The Norwegian government
pledged to investigate.
Pursuing other strategies for getting
around the global unpopularity of whaling,
the Japanese government’s Institute of
Cetacean Research announced that agricultural
veterinarians had achieved a test-tube
fertilization of minke whale ova during a
“scientific” whaling expedition at some
point between November 1995 and April
1996. They did this with the remains of
whales killed by the expedition, who otherwise
might have been breeding on their own.
High & low
Hidehiro Kato, head of the
Japanese whale research program, said the
experiment had “tremendous significance for
the understanding of the whale’s breeding
mechanism, which is said to be similar to
that of cattle and horses.” Translation:
whales can be slaughtered like livestock,
because in theory they might eventually be
bred like livestock.
While Japan took the high-tech
road to Loch Lomond––and Aberdeen––the
Faroe Islands took the low road. Justenes
Olsen, “veterinarian-in-charge of animal
welfare developments in the Faroese pilot
whale drive,” announced April 24 via Georg
Blichfeldt of the High North Alliance that,
“The first attempts at replacing the gaff with
a blunt hook to be inserted into the whale’s
blowhole have been very successful.”
Explained Blichfeldt, “The use of
the gaff has been strongly criticised by animal
welfare and animal rights organizations.
During the Faroese pilot whale hunt, the
whales are run aground and killed with
knives. If any whales remain in the shallows,
they have to be secured and hauled in
toward land.” He likened the hook through
the blowhole to dragging a pig by a ring
through the nose, which isn’t humanely
acceptable either.
Perhaps seeking a diplomatic way
to escape blame if whaling resumes on his
watch, IWC chair Peter Bridgewater on
May 2 told the National Science and
Technology Center at Canberra, Australia,
that whether or not whales can be bred like
livestock, they may not have adequate
oceanic pasture due to global climate
change. Ozone layer damage and global
warming are believed to be sharply reducing
the amounts of krill and plankton available
to whales in much of their feeding habitat.
The Environmental Investigation
Agency on May 7 echoed the same theme at
a London press conference, one day before
Great Britain announced that it would continue
steadfast opposition to any authorization
of renewed commercial whaling.

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