Sea Shepherds announce Norwegian whaler sinkings
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1997:
OSLO, Norway––The International
Whaling Commission on October 23 gave the
Makah tribe of Washington state the okay to
kill gray whales––or at any rate the Makah and
U.S. government claim it did. Seal penis prices
in Asia, boosted by Norwegian and Canadian
governmental marketing, are reportedly at
record highs. Steinar Bastesen, the most notorious
whaler and sealer of all, in October won a
seat in the Norwegian parliament.
Marine mammal defenders took grim
comfort and inspiration, however, from the
apparent sabotage sinking of one of Bastesen’s
ships, the 45-foot Morild. The Morild sank at
dockside on November 11 in Bronnoysund,
430 miles north of Oslo, just 12 days after
intruders purportedly dressed in Halloween
pirate costumes scuttled another Norwegian
whaling vessel, the Elin Toril, at Mortsun in
the Lofoten Islands, six months after a third
Norwegian whaling vessel, the Senet, was
allegedly firebombed while in drydock.
The Morild and Elin Toril sinkings
were announced by the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society––but, the Sea Shepherds stipulated,
“Neither Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul
Watson, or Lisa Distefano were involved. Sea
Shepherd was informed after the fact.”
Both Watson and Distefano were at
the Sea Shepherd headquarters in Venice,
California, preparing for a spring anti-sealing
campaign off eastern Canada. The May attack
on the S e n e t came while Distefano was in
California and Watson was in a Dutch jail,
awaiting a hearing on a Norwegian attempt to
extradite him to serve jail time on a conviction
in absentia for alleged involvement in the dockside
scuttling of the Nybraena in 1992. That
action was claimed by the Sea Shepherds,
along with the 1994 scuttling of the Senet, the
same vessel that burned this year.
The Nybraena and Senet were refloated
and returned to work killing whales. The
Morild and Elin Toril are likely to be.
“The primary consequence,” Watson
told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “is to maintain high
insurance premiums and security costs for the
Norwegian whaling industry. All Norwegian
whaling vessels are presently required to maintain
But Bastesen’s ship maybe didn’t.
Bastesen told media on November 12 that the
Morild “couldn’t have sunk by itself.”
On November 13, however, Watson
e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE that “Bastesen
is now claiming his boat sank accidently. He is
doing this so that he can claim insurance.
Apparently he was not insured for sabotage.”
SEAL OIL SELLERS
As the Sea Shepherds gear up for
probable direct confrontation with sealers, the
International Fund for Animal Welfare contin-
ues to escalate a direct mail and newspaper
advertising campaign to rekindle awareness
that the Canadian offshore seal hunt not only
was revived three years ago after a decadelong
suspension, but also may be bigger and
bloodier than ever, even though seal penises
are still almost the only seal product for which
there is profitable demand.
According to the November 10 edition
of High North Web News, an electronic
publication of the pro-sealing-and-whaling
High North Alliance, “At a recent fisheries
exposition in Beijing, a Norwegian company
sold its entire 1997 stock of 6,000 seal penises
at prices of $40 U.S. for the long ones and
$15-$20 U.S. for the small ones. The buyer, a
businessman from Singapore, also secured an
option on all the seal penises the company can
manage to supply next year. The penises will
be used in the manufacture of a remedy
designed to stimulate sexual potency. Last
year’s price for an adult seal penis was $10
U.S., down from $35 U.S. in 1995.”
The 1995 resumption of the
Canadian offshore seal hunt apparently briefly
glutted the market with penises, but by this
year, increased Canadian and Norwegian governmental
promotion had jacked up demand.
The major Canadian buyer of seal carcasses,
including penises, is a Norwegian-owned
firm, Carino Ltd.
Newfoundland fisheries minister
John Efford personally pushed seal oil on radio
as an admittedly not scientifically tested cure
for cardiac and circulatory problems.
Efford also made October and
November sales calls in China, Thailand,
Japan, and Korea. “Last year the sealing
industry was worth around $25 million,” he
told CBN radio listeners in St. John’s,
Newfoundland. “If we do our marketing right
and get into those countries, in five, ten years
down the road sealing could be worth at least
$100 million a year. The Chinese people are
looking for new products: new meat, new
species of animals such as seals and other
marine mammals. And we have it here, so we
have to get it into their country.”
Seal product seller Dave Hiscock, of
J.W. Hiscock & Sons & Briggets, told CBC
Radio Noon on November 6 that his firm is
“going to target the Asian communities in
Toronto and Vancouver.”
The marketing drive was to escalate
November 25-27 with a three-day promotion
of seal products at a conference in St. John’s
hosted by the pro-sealing and whaling North
Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission.
WHAT’S A HYDROID?
The real impetus to the seal hunt is
not heavily subsidized profits, however, but
rather containing unrest resulting from the
ongoing shortage of cod in Canadian Atlantic
waters. The seal hunt generates the equivalent
of only 100-120 fulltime jobs, according to
recent analysis by University of Guelph economist
Clive Southey, yet gives out-of-work
fishers a way to vent frustration, and helps
sustain the politically convenient illusion that
a way of life built on exploiting marine
resources can somehow continue.
Five years into a cod fishing moratorium,
the fish are not back. Thousands of former
fishers and fish processors are still out of
work. Government compensation and retraining
allowances are expiring.
And, addressing a National Marine
Fisheries Service seminar in Tiburon, California
on November 12, San Francisco State
University biologist Steve Boilens had still
more bad news for both Atlantic Canadian and
New England fishers.
New England waters are not quite as
severely depleted as Canadian waters, but
about a third of the Georges Bank has been
closed to commercial fishing since 1994.
Boilens studied hydroids, as part of
the five-year, $25-million Global Ocean
Ecosystem Dynamics project jointly funded by
the National Science Foundation and National
Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.
Hydroids are a tiny tentacled cousin
of jellyfish that normally root themselves to
ocean bottom for most of their lives. Boilens
found unexpectedly dense concentrations of as
many as 100 hydroids per gallon in the
Georges Bank, off New England, at middle
depths normally used by cod and haddock.
Hydroids eat copepods, microscopic
crustaceans which are also the chief diet of cod
and haddock larvae. Hydroids eat cod and
haddock larvae, too.
Boilens theorized that dragnetters
tearing up the ocean bottom have mobilized
the hydroids, while depleting the fish that previously
ate the middle-depth copepods.
Suddenly finding plenty of food and little competition
in the middle depths, the hydroids
made themselves at home––and by consuming
cod and haddock larvae, are eliminating their
future competition, too.
The result appears to be wholesale
ecological change on a scale that suggests cod
and haddock may never be back.
Paul Watson predicted as much in
1993, when the Sea Shepherds chased Cuban
and Spanish dragnetters off the Grand Banks.
Opposing the seal hunt will preoccupy
the Sea Shepherds and IFAW for the next
few months, but both––and many other organizations––are
also working on recovery from
the most damaging International Whaling
Commission meeting since several years
before the present global moratorium on commercial
whaling was voted into place in 1982.
On the positive side, the delegates
passed resolutions asking Norway to cease
whaling, and asking Japan to cease issuing
research whaling permits. As in past years,
the IWC also rejected a Japanese request that a
quota of 50 whales be allocated to “traditional”
coastal whaling villages, whose whaling traditional
may actually go back only to circa 1900.
The IWC postponed acting on an
Irish proposal to permanently close the high
seas to whaling but allow whaling within 200
miles of a coastline––where the most whales
live and most whaling has always been done.
But in the most publicized and most
disputed action of the meeting, the delegates
agreed to allow peoples whose “traditional,
aboriginal and subsistence needs have been
recognized” to kill 620 gray whales during the
The deal, according to the Makah
and the official U.S. delegation, allows the
Makah Tribal Council to kill four whales a
year from an allocation of 124 a year shared
with the Yupik and Chukchi peoples of Lorino,
Siberia. It “saves” 16 whales a year, they say,
because the Yupik and Chukchi quota previously
was 140 whales a year. Recent visitors
to Lorino, including Richard Paddock of the
Los Angeles Times and Michael Kundu of the
Sea Shepherds report that the Yupik and
Chukchi quota is mostly used to feed foxes at a
nearly moribund fur farming complex.
But that wasn’t the actual deal as
agreed by the IWC, U.S. Congressional
Representative Jack Metcalf (R-Washington)
told constitutents on November 5 in the South
“The agreement,” Metcalf said,
“was to allow the Makah to hunt four of the
whales from the Russian quota under the definition
of ‘cultural subsistence.’ The previous
U.S. position was to oppose whaling except in
the case of true subsistence need.” The
change, Metcalf continued, “was immediately
recognized as a ploy to get around the IWC.
The Australian delegation offered an amendment
requiring any group hunting whales to
prove that the whale meat is essential for their
nutritional subsistence. This amendment was
designed and passed to prohibit the Makah
hunt under the laws of the IWC.”
Metcalf called the Makah and
Clinton/Gore administration view of the IWC
verdict “an outrageous demonstration of
An official statement of the
Australian delegation supported Metcalf’s
account. The IWC is to meet again in Oman
next June, several months before the Makah
intend to begin whaling, and the disputed
interpretations may dominate the agenda.
Predicted Los Angeles Times columnist
Jean-Michel Cousteau, “The fight for the
grays is far from over. Makah whaling advocates
can expect a flurry of protests and lawsuits.”
Cousteau pointed out that while the
Makah claim to a right to kill whales rests on
the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, that “right”
belonged to all Americans at the time.
“We are all whaling peoples with a
broken tradition,” Cousteau continued.
“That’s just the point: it is a tradition we have
broken by global consensus.”
Cousteau argued that if native peoples
who once ceased whaling are allowed to
resume, “Eventually even the fishers of the
San Ignacio Lagoon,” where the gray whales
calf, “will begin to wonder why they
shouldn’t join the slaughter.”
As word spread that NMFS had
given the Makah $600,000 in support of their
bid to resume whaling, the Passamaquoddy
tribe of Maine added a claim to a right to kill
porpoises to their disputed claim to saltwater
fishing rights. Maine governor Angus King
holds that those rights were extinguished as
part of an $81 million land claims settlement
reached in 1980. The matter is in court.
Thirteen Canadian tribal bands have
also indicated interest in whaling, with political
and economic support from Japan.
“Having discussed the Makah issue
with members of the Japanese whaling industry,”
Watson said, “it’s becoming apparent
that the Makah will not sell the meat of gray
whales to Japan. Japan simply wants the U.S.
to justify a domestic ‘cultural’ whaling operation
so that Japan might too get to kill whales
for their own coastal villages under this rationale.
The Makah tribe is simply a pawn in this
global game of subtrefuge.”
Sea otters may be pawns, too. In
1993 the Makah Tribal Council trained 30
divers to collect sea urchins for sale to Japan.
They sold $200,000 worth in 1994, but sales
have since reportedly fallen by half. Sea
otters, absent for at least a century, returned
to the Neah Bay region in 1995. Accusing the
sea otters of depleting sea urchins, the Makah
claim the Treaty of Neah Bay guarantees their
right to hunt sea otters as well as whales, but
have avoided pressing that case while the
whale-killing is still before the public.
As Makah natural resources director
David Sones recently told Jim Simons of the
Seattle Times, “There’s probably even more
public sentiment out there against killing